Exclusive: ECB to unveil diversity training for every county employee in £5m action plan

ECB Chairman Richard Thompson chats with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali
ECB Chairman Richard Thompson wants to make cricket the "UK's most inclusive sport" - Alex Davidson/Getty Images

All employees in professional cricket will undergo diversity training as part of a long ranging £5 million outlay to satisfy the demands of a report into discrimination in the sport published in June.

At a meeting of county chief executives and other stakeholders on Tuesday, the England & Wales Cricket Board gave a brief outline of plans to respond to the 44 recommendations laid down by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC), published in June, which found that “structural and institutional racism, sexism and class-based discrimination continue to exist across the game”.

In a document seen by Telegraph Sport, the ECB outlined its plan to deliver on recommendations of “training for the development of racial literacy” and “building competency in leading equality, diversity and inclusion”. From April or May next year, it will make compulsory “specialist training via Inclusive Employers, who deliver our Inclusive Leadership programme”, which will continue until 2028.

Further details will be shared with the counties on Friday before the ECB releases its plans publicly on Sept 25, in preparation for an appearance before the government’s DCMS committee on Oct 31.

Months of work spearheaded by the ECB’s deputy chief executive, Clare Connor, have been devoted to responding to the ICEC demands, one of which called for extensive EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) training across the game.

This is to involve all leaders at executive and board level in English cricket, as players already receive EDI training sessions, and the ECB vowed to “continue delivering education through 2025-28” with the cost put at close to £5 million when combined with the recent salary increase for England’s female players. Insiders believe the final figure could yet be well in excess of that.

The ECB issued an unreserved apology in June to those “who have faced discrimination in cricket” and vowed to respond to the ICEC report by the end of this month.

Stretching finances to the limit

One of the recommendations laid down by the report has already been agreed: to introduce gender pay parity between the England men’s and women’s teams which Telegraph Sport revealed will cost an extra £1.5 million per year.

A commitment to EDI training at all levels of cricket was made in Jan 2022 but will be beefed up following the ICEC report and ECB chairman Richard Thompson declaring he would make cricket the “UK’s most inclusive sport” when he took office last year.

The EDI costs will be met by the ECB, not the counties, although it comes at a time when the game’s finances are already stretched.

The board is facing pay demands from the England men’s team and is struggling to fight off Twenty20 franchise leagues offering big salaries to tempt players away from national contracts.

An expected raise in match fees for the men was turned down and instead multi-year contracts will be put on the table, although the first offers have been declined. Further talks with the England team player representatives, which at this stage are amicable, are ongoing and could stretch into the World Cup next month before final offers are put before the players.

Selling equity in The Hundred

To pay for the EDI requirements, the ECB will have to cut budgets, with spending likely to be curbed on the Hundred. Some of the central control of the competition, which has been run internally at the ECB since its inception, will be handed over to the host counties.

The game is struggling to find additional income with its broadcast deal with Sky running until 2028. There will be pressure to pull in new commercial deals but the biggest growth area will be to sell equity in the Hundred franchises, or the entire tournament, to private investors.

Richard Gould, the ECB chief executive, and the chairman, Thompson, will put five options about the future of the Hundred to the counties over the coming months. They include keeping the status quo, selling equity in the existing teams, adding two more franchises in the north east and south west and introducing a 39-team investable pyramid with promotion and relegation using existing first class and national counties.

The ECB will not be fulfilling all 44 ICEC recommendations. It believes not all are within its remit, such as state school funding which requires extensive government support. The report recommended making county pathways free of charge, but this too is likely to be too expensive for the game to deliver.

The news of extensive EDI training for cricketers comes at a time when the ECB is investigating the conduct of Sussex’s Ari Karvelas, although has not confirmed what for. The Cricketer reported the investigation is for alleged racist or discriminatory language, aimed at Leicestershire’s Pakistan batsman Umar Amin. Karvelas is alleged to have said “send him back to the village he came from” after dismissing Amin for 94 in the second innings. Karvelas is said to have claimed that he was using the word “village” in the context of village cricket, a derogatory remark over the standard of play not the player’s background.