WOMEN'S CRICKET HISTORY

 
 


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SECTION 2 - THE WOMEN'S CRICKET ASSOCIATION AND THE MERGER WITH THE ECB

From it's inception, the WCA worked at improving girls' and women's opportunities to play cricket. This meant that, on one hand, the members of the WCA sought to establish a separatist organisation run by women for women (as evident by the fact that men were not allowed to vote until 1993); on the other, they were acutely aware of the dangers of being too outspoken, or of challenging the power of men's cricket, for fear of losing their much needed support and co-operation. In addition to the historical legacy of gender (and class) traditions that impinged on the development of the women's game, problems within the organisation also posed significant dilemmas. Indeed, tensions within the organisation threatened to halt the work of the WCA for good.

Like other governing bodies of [the] women's game, the WCA relied on membership, sponsorship and small grants for its work. It is testimony to the commitment and dedication of the women involved that the Association was able to support the development of the game for over fifty years, from 1926 until 1998, including the hosting of several International Tours. However, finances remained an ongoing issue for the Association. In the 1980s, the issue of affiliation fees became a central concern. Minutes of the 1987 AGM document the Committee discussion about the imposition of penalties for County Associations who were late paying their fees. Sanctions discussed included the options of preventing those who had not paid fees from being considered for Country Trials (WCA, 1987:16). At this time, affiliation fees instated by the WCA were the following:-

Clubs shall pay an affiliation fee to the WCA of £2.00 per head for full playing members over the age of 16, plus such amount to the Area Association as agreed by the said Association at its AGM. The minimum Club affiliation fee shall be £20.00. (WCA, 1987:20).

Other fees were £10 for Colleges and Universities, £5 for Junior School Clubs, Associate Members £5 and Individual Members £10. However, for many Clubs struggling for facilities and playing grounds, they may well have been prohibitive. In addition, some Clubs questioned the benefits of WCA membership, and simply chose not to affiliate, and, by doing so, were not under any obligation to pay fees to the WCA. Such financial input from these Women's Cricket Clubs in the country would have undoubtedly strengthened the viability of the Association.

Players and members were, therefore, forced to support their Association financially. However, this position was increasingly questioned, as evidenced in a 1986 Newsletter article which noted:

There are many indications of willingness to help, but few, if any, who are able to absorb the costs of telephone calls, stamps, petrol and sometimes overnight accommodation. An attitude still prevails which seems to expect members to give their services free of charge, absorb the cost and, where entitled, to waive the fee which conflicts with those willing to help, but who need to be reimbursed for expenses or wish to see remuneration when their status is recognised for such purposes in other areas of sport (e.g. women who are NCA qualified Coaches. (WCA News, 1986:3).

Such a statement demonstrates the extent to which women paid to play and, moreover, the WCA's realisation that this type of payment was unsustainable. At the 1989 AGM, severity of the financial situation resulted in a discussion about whether the WCA could continue at all (Mowat, 1989). Faced with the possibility that the Association might have to fold, members at the Meeting agreed to increase affiliation fees in a bid to prevent its own demise.

It was not until some years later that the possibility of merging with the ECB was announced. In the Summer of 1997, Wicket Women published an announcement about the possibility of a merger with the ECB. The announcement stated that the WCA would open up formal negotiations with the ECB. Those behind the move stressed that this should be viewed as an opportunity that they could ill afford to ignore:

The fact is that if we stay as we are, we will not be able to meet the growing demand. Considering a merger with the ECB is an opportunity to plan for and stimulate growth in Women's Cricket; it is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss (Daniels cited in Harris, 1997:2).

A substantial amount of information about a possible merger, written by the Chairman and Chief Executive of the WCA, in later editions of Wicket Women, re-iterated support for the merger as well as reminding members of the advantages that this would bring in order to forward Women's Cricket.

In 1998, the ECB and the WCA commissioned Inform Associates, a Research Company, to conduct a review of the position of Women's Cricket. Based on questionnaires sent to Clubs, interviews with players and information gathered from Schools, the Report had a number of significant findings. One key issue was the question of affiliation; as already noted above, this was not a new issue for the Association. Despite identifying 181 Women's Cricket Clubs in the UK, the research showed that only 90 of these were affiliated to the WCA. Cricket being played outside of the control of the WCA meant lost revenue for the Association. The Report also stipulated that the low public profile of the game hindered the development of the sport, as many young girls and women were still unaware of the women's game and those who did know about it were unsure how to gain access to the sport. The Report concluded that .the development of cricket for women and girls needs to be mainstreamed within cricket development' (Inform Associates, 1998:88), thus advocating the proposed merger with the ECB.

However, not everyone was so positive about the proposed merger. In the period leading up to the vote about the merger, tensions and power struggles within the organisation became evident. According to the records at the EGM3 . where members of the WCA voted on the merger on 29th March 1998 . the organisation needed a two-thirds majority vote to enforce the proposed move. The vote was close because 30 members abstained from voting altogether (Telegraph, 1998). Those who voted against the merger and/or those who were ambivalent about it, documented their concerns in various reports. The most critical included members of Lancashire WCA and members of Redoubtables4 County Cricket Club. For instance, a representative for Lancashire WCA expressed concerns over the loss of decision-making power of the women's game. Whilst the proposed structure under a new, merged organisation provided for a Women's Sub-Group to steer the development of the women's game, questions were raised over whether this Group would actually have any real power to make decisions.

The Terms of Reference agreed for this Women's Sub-Group do not, in fact, give us any real powers and decisions; proposals or recommendations made by this Sub-Group can be easily blocked at a number of higher levels according to the present ECB structure. (Lancashire WCA. 1998).

Whilst the loss of power was a key concern, linked to this was the fear of many that the County Boards of Cricket would not seriously engage with, or provide sufficient resources for, women's cricket teams. Redoubtables specifically focussed their concerns on the grassroots of development. They suggested that the merger might result in the over-focus on the English Women's National team rather than on the recreational elements of the game. More generally, they expressed concern about a loss of identity as women, playing a women's sport, running a women's organisation, if the Associations merged. These concerns were not unfounded; research elsewhere has not always been beneficial to women (Lovett and Lowry, 1995). It was this sense of loss that appeared to motivate many members to raise concerns about the merger with the ECB. Indeed, this seems to have been the motive for the continuation of the WCA after the merger, albeit in a different guise, as the Women's Cricket Associates. The Women's Cricket Associates, formed in 1999, by previous members of the WCA Committee, with the following aims and objectives:

To provide an organisation with which present and past women cricketers, officials and administrators can identify;

To enable the provision of such social activities as members may wish to further their interests;

To engage in activities which support or complement the role of the work of the ECB, the governing body of the women's game.

To raise awareness of the history and development of Women's Cricket and to encourage the appropriate display and storage of the archives and memorabilia associated with the women's game before 1999.

The administration of the Associates shall be vested in members at General Meeting and the Executive Committee;

As part of its activities, Women's Cricket Associates runs a Golf Society and organises Reunions for past players. It also collects historical information about the women's game, to challenge the views of those who think, as Izard, (2009:3) claims, .that women's cricket did not exist before the merger with the ECB'. Such a perception would understandably frustrate those who tirelessly ran the women's game with such unwavering commitment and limited financial resources, before the merger.

The Impact of the Merger: National and International Issues in Women's Cricket

Whilst women's involvement in sport generally is increasing (e.g. Women Fitness and Sports Foundation, 2009), data relating specifically to cricket participation is not straightforward. In 2003, the ECB suggested that there were in excess of 2 million girls playing cricket, a growth attributed to the merger with the WCA. That is, a growth that was specifically linked to the increased funding of women's cricket and the restructuring of the game in order to increase the opportunities to become involved in the sport. However, Sport England surveys conducted in 1994, 1999 and 2002, suggest a rather different story. Despite demonstrating a clear increase in girls' involvement in sports such as football, data from these surveys indicates girls' involvement in cricket did not change significantly between 1994 and 2002. In 1994, for instance, 20% of boys regularly played cricket in School, compared to 7% of girls. Whilst in 1999, this had increased to 24% of boys and 8% of girls. In 2001 figures dropped back to 20% and 7% respectively (Sport England, 2003). Out of School participation in cricket demonstrates a similar trend. In 1994, 27% of boys aged 6-11 years regularly participated in cricket out of School in comparison to just 6% of girls. Again, there were slight increases in 1999 with 29% of boys and 8% of girls regularly involved in playing cricket. But, by 2002, these figures had also decreased to 22% of boys and 5% of girls. The size of the Sport England surveys (charting the physical activities of some 3,000 6-16 year-olds, suggest that these figures are relatively reliable.

The overall picture, therefore, is of a considerable difference in the number of girls and boys playing the game and, in contrasts to many other sports, there is no evidence that this gap has narrowed in recent years. Whilst useful at one level, statistical evidence cannot say much about the experiences of girls and women who do play. Arguably, the fears of the Lancashire WCA seem to be becoming true. The gap between recreational and elite levels of play is growing, with money and resources being directed into the elite structure of Women's Cricket at the expense of the grassroots Clubs (see below).

As previously suggested, there is evidence to suggest that England players have benefited from the merger with the ECB. For instance, through increased sponsorship players no longer have to pay for kit and expenses (Narayanan, 2009). The professionalization of Women's Cricket, in terms of funding and coaching, have undoubtedly impacted on the achievements of the England Women's team at International competitions. Having said this, prior to the merger, England did win the World Cup twice on home soil in 1973 and 1993, with access to far fewer resources than they have now. A key change today, to the support that the National women players receive, is the cricket coaching contracts made possible through the .Chance to Shine' charity. These enable the women to be secure cricket related employment, whilst also playing for England Women (ECB, 2008).

A similar picture of the women's game and the problems with mergers is evident in Australia. Stronach and Adair's (2009) research explores the impact of the merger of the Australian Cricket Board and the Women's Cricket Australia in 2003, resulting in a combined governing body called Cricket Australia (CA). They argue that the newly integrated governing body has benefited the women's game in a number of ways, particularly in relation to junior development, coaching, financial support and scholarships. As a result of this change, there have been some modest gains in the profile and status of the women's game. Despite the positive benefits, however, the authors show how the CA's managerial structure means that women do not have decision-making power within the organisation. A similar picture has emerged in other sports, where women's sports are incorporated in a tokenistic rather than pro-active fashion (Hoeber, 2007). Ultimately, men continue to dominate the structure and organisation of the game (Shaw and Slack, 2002). Stronach and Adair (2009:926) conclude by arguing:

However, in CA's current opinion, the women's game .continues to drift along with low public awareness and limited commercial appeal'. So, .more of the same' despite CA's superior managerial, marketing and promotional resources.

In England, a somewhat different picture emerges This may be because one of the conditions of the merger, at the insistence of the WCA, was that the National Manager for Women's Cricket within the ECB should always be a woman, involved in the women's game. The insistence of the WCA to keep women in positions of leadership demonstrated their awareness of the possibilities that the merger may result in men taking over the women's game. Their strategy enabled women to retain some control over .their' game. Immediately after the merger, the Executive Director of the WCA was renamed the National Manager for Women's Cricket for a two year period (Wicket Women, 19986. However, at times this has been a struggle, for the National Manager for Women has little access to other areas of the ECB's work. For instance, she is not represented on the Cricket Committee, the Board or the Audit Committee (ECB, 2008). The membership of these Committees is all men. This arguably results in the needs of the women's game being met more slowly. Similarly, their marginalisation from these Committees means that women have very little say over many other aspects of the day to day running of cricket more generally.

In relation to the current structure and situation within the IWCC, after being forced to merge with the ICC in 2005 due to financial issues, the ICC is now responsible for the global development of the women's game. Prior to the merger in 2005, the organisation had developed extensively with 15 member countries (Man, 2009). According to Man (2009) this number had risen to 42 by 2007. For the first time, a World Cup qualifying event took place in South Africa, with Zimbabwe and Bermuda taking part. In the 2009 World Cup, held in Australia, eight teams took part; England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, India, West Indies, Australia, Pakistan, South Africa (ICC, 2009). In the Twenty20 World Cup, held in England in 2009, the ICC organised women's matches to take place prior to men's matches to try and publicise the women's game. There is, however, evidence to suggest that there is a large gap growing between teams with Australia, India, New Zealand and England tending to dominate other cricket playing Nations. In the 2009 World, Cup, South Africa, Pakistan and the West Indies were bowled out more than once for under 100 runs (ICC, 2009). This suggests that the development of cricket for women in some countries is far behind other cricketing Nations. The reasons for this are complex, but are related to the economic, cultural and political history of each country as well as particular gender relations of power and control operating with those Nations.

The global development of women's cricket has many parallels with the general International Women's Sports Movement. Notably, through the Brighton Declaration of Women and Sport (England, 1994) and, later, the Windhoek Call for Action (Namibia, 1998), women from different parts of the world have assembled and collectively aimed to develop women's sports; focussing on strategies for challenging the financial position of women's sports, the lack of facilities for women's sports, access and opportunities to play a diverse array of sports and, also, the role of the media and leadership positions of women in sport. Although the original intentions of the movement were to cater for a global community of women, as Hargreaves, (1999-2000) argues, this has not been the case as the work of the organisation continues to serve the interests of particular groups of women; namely, .white', western, middle class groups of women. Hargreaves (1999-200) suggests that the International Women's Sports Movement must address the differing positions of women throughout the world, which may affect their subjective experiences of social, cultural, economic and political life in multiple ways, rather than assume women are homogenous and have all the same needs and experiences.

The debates within the International Women's Sports Movement are relevant to those within the development of Women's Cricket globally as we cannot assume the experiences of women playing in Australia, Bermuda, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Zimbabwe will be the same as those of women cricketers in this country. Indeed, even in England, women's experiences of cricket are likely to be influenced by a number of inter-related factors pertaining to class, .race'/ethnicity, sexuality, age and (dis)ability as well as ties to local and regional parts of England (Velija and Malcolm, 2009). Hargreaves (1999), over ten years ago now, suggested that the International Women's Sports Movement must transform their existing set of power relations to involve marginalised groups of women as well as those from under-privileged backgrounds. Although women from non-western and non-white Nations are known to be playing the game, as previously mentioned, the power predominantly lies with the .white', western, women's cricket playing Nations. The implications of this for Women's Cricket means it is not and cannot be a truly .International' sport and, with the added financial pressures on each country (and the ICC) to field women's international cricket teams, this situation is unlikely to change.

CONCLUSIONS

The formation, governance and development of women's cricket owe much to the passion and commitment of those who historically played the game. The International successes of the contemporary England Women's Team reflect not just recent developments, but also the past struggles and actions of members of the WCA. Working against the traditional gender conventions of the time, and with limited resources, the early ambassadors of the WCA ensured the development of structures and opportunities to play, enabling women's cricket to flourish and grow. Yet, at this time, the dominance of men's cricket and their control over resources and facilities meant that the work of the WCA was not strictly autonomous. They heavily relied on men's support for the women's game. Links between the WCA and the ECB are long standing, based on their historical associations, rather than being a relatively new initiative.

The eventual demise of the WCA was not straightforward. As the sport grew in National and International stature, its existence was threatened from both within and outside of its power. Within the organisation, tensions were linked to the personalities and power of individual players; the lack of financial support from some local women's cricket teams; the cost of International Tours; and differences of opinion regarding a possible merger with the ECB. Outside of the organisation, issues related to the financial burden of hosting International Tours; the lack of investment from individuals, sponsors and cricket-related agencies; and the unfair image of women cricketers in media representations of the game are all evident. A similar picture emerges internationally, in which other countries have also merged with the men's cricketing governing body to ensure continual existence. Moreover, the international organising body of the women's game, the IWCC, for similar reasons was also forced to merge with the ICC. As with other women's sports organisation, women's cricket internationally is played by only a number of countries. The ICC has not been able to succeed where the IWCC failed; using their funds to develop the international structure of the game. It is still predominantly played by .white', western, middle-class groups of women. Without question, in England the merger of the ECB and WCA has accelerated the development of Women's Cricket. This success is most notable at International levels of the game.

Yet, without devaluating the achievements of those who have led this post-merger success, the game at county and local levels in the UK is fragmented and dominated by a small number of Clubs. A similar picture emerges in Australia whereby the women's game has benefited from the merger with the men's game.

Women's Cricket is not a professional sport, in that players do not get paid to play. Yet the game, both under the WCA and IWCC was professional in its organisation and ethos. It is evident that Women's Cricket remains predominantly a recreational sport, with the realisation that a chance to earn a living from playing Women's cricket is slim. Currently, England and Australia are the only two countries involved in playing Test Cricket, indicating the differing development between the men and the women's game, and whilst some have argued that women should play more Tests, Thompson (2006) questions whether the Test form of the game is possible for women, as a lack of funding, and a perceived lack of spectators, means that these longer forms of the game are not considered financially viable. Yet, without Test Cricket, the extent to which the game can grow as an International sport remains to be seen. As this chapter shows, it is clear that the nature and structure of Women's Cricket has undergone significant changes in recent times. Unfortunately, there have been few such shifts in the culture and institutional power of the sport. Almost a century after women began to play the game seriously, comments about women playing cricket remain out-dated, based on gendered notions of the role and identity of .real' women. For instance, on his first day as the newly elected President of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in 2005, Robin Marlar expressed the view that it was .absolutely outrageous. that girls should play cricket with boys. He further stated that were a girl able to bowl at 80 mph, he would .be asking whether she's had a sex change (or not.). (Daily Telegraph, 2 October 2005).

The ICC, as the global organisation of the women's game note that their vision of success is the following: .as a leading global sport cricket will captivate and inspire people of every age, gender, background and ability, while building bridges between continents, countries and communities' (ICC, 2009). Whilst this is laudable, it remains to be seen as to whether the women's game can become a globalised sport, especially given the gap between those countries that dominate the International game and those that are struggling to develop. Thus it seems the future of Women's Cricket, both Internationally and Nationally, relies on the possibility of challenging forms of gender inequities as well as addressing the poor financial circumstances of the game, that have long characterised its historical development.

Edited by Christ Rumford and Stephen Wagg

 

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