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Campaigners call on Lord's to cancel Oxbridge game if women can't play

‘Let’s stump out sexism’: Lord’s Cricket Ground allows women’s Oxbridge Varsity match to be played on main square for the first time in 194 years – but campaigners demand games are CANCELLED unless ladies’ team can play on the same pitch as men in future

  • Female cricketers from Oxford and Cambridge set to compete at Lord’s in 2022
  • But campaigners are calling on owners Marylebone Cricket Club to go further
  • Stump Out Sexism want it to be a given that a women’s game will be held there
  • MCC say the organising of the game is down to bosses of Oxford and Cambridge
  • But campaigners say MCC should demand women’s match of cancel the men’s 

Campaigners have called for the bosses of Lord’s Cricket Ground to cancel the Oxbridge men’s match if university chiefs do not organise a women’s game to take place on the same pitch.

Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) have given the go-ahead for the women’s Oxford and Cambridge varsity match to be played on its famous main square for the first time in 194 years.

Female students have been given the green light to play their own match by the typically traditionalist bosses of the ground – which still has a ban on fancy dress and demands members dress formally in its pavilion.

But campaigners Stump out Sexism want those behind the hallowed ‘Home of Cricket’ to go one step further.

They are calling Lord’s owners Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) to demand a women’s varsity match be played each year alongside the men’s.

And they are urging bosses to cancel the annual men’s game if Oxford and Cambridge do not organise a women’s game alongside it.

The campaign has been backed by Essex Women’s captain Kelly Castle, who urged cricket chiefs to ‘stump out sexism’.

In a statement, the group said: ‘A tentative offer… for next season does not make up for years of exclusion. 

Campaigners have called for the bosses of Lord’s Cricket Ground (pictured) to cancel the Oxbridge men’s match if university chiefs do not organise a women’s game to take place on the same pitch

Stump Out Sexism is run by co-founders Róisín McCallion (pictured) and Vanessa Picker

The University Match: 194-year-old cricket fixture between Oxford and Cambridge that is even older than the famous Boat Race

When most people think of Oxford versus Cambridge, the image of two boats powering side-by-side down the River Thames comes to mind.

But the two universities actually clashed in cricket before they faced-off on the water.

The first varsity cricket match between the two universities took place in 1827 – two years before the first Boat Race. 

Like the Boat Race, it was organised by scholar Charles Wordsworth – who was an enthusiast of both sports.

Students from both sides played a two-day game at Lords that year, with neither side able to clinch victory. 

The event was held sporadically over the next 10 years, becoming an annual fixture after 1840 – a match which was won by Cambridge.

It was traditionally a three-day fixture and up until World War Two was one of the most important cricketing fixtures of the season.

From 2001 the match has been replaced by two fixtures each year – a one-day match played at Lord’s and a four-day first-class fixture played in alternate years at Oxford or Cambridge.

Of the the 176 matches that have been scheduled, Cambridge have won 61, Oxford have won 58, and 56 have been drawn.

One match in 1988 was abandoned without a ball being bowled.

In 2008, for the first time a T20 fixture was also played.

Under the plans put forward by Marylebone Cricket Club for next year, the T20 fixture will be a double-header day involving a match between then men’s teams and a match between the women’s teams.

It would see the men’s one-day 50-over game cut to a T-20 match to allow the women’s match to take place on the same day at Lord’s.

‘The MCC have control over their own calendar and thus have the power to influence the parameters of fixture invitations and to raise the bar further.

‘We, therefore, ask the MCC to specify that the offer of next year’s Oxbridge Varsity match being played on the main ground is entirely conditional upon both the men’s and women’s teams being involved equally.

‘If the clubs continue to insist that any date should be exclusively for the men, the invitation must be revoked.’

The statement added: ‘This should not be an arrangement solely for next year, but rather for all future Oxbridge Varsity fixtures at Lord’s.’

Male Oxbridge students have battled it out on the famous ground since 1827.

But the women’s game has never been played at Lord’s, instead being played at grounds local to the two universities. 

This year it is due to be played at Wormsley, Bucks. The men’s match is due to take place at Lord’s this weekend.

But amid the growth of the women’s cricket, and with increasing pressure from campaigners, an application was made to the MCC this year to stage the women’s game at Lord’s.

But bosses said the application came too late to arrange a fixture at the ground this year.

Instead, a double-header twenty-over match, known as a T20, was offered for next year.

It is now down to Oxford and Cambridge to organise the game for one day next year.

If the double-header does go-ahead, it will see the men’s longer 50-over game cut to 20-overs to accommodate the women’s match.

Meanwhile campaigners are calling for the women’s varsity game to be moved to Lord’s this year.

Stump Out Sexism say there is plenty of space in the Lord’s fixture calendar to accommodate the women’s game later this year.

Co-founders Róisín McCallion and Vanessa Picker said: ‘There is a clear equity issue in play regarding the varsity game at Lord’s that needs to be solved.

‘With the MCC’s response to our letter, there is now a real opportunity to build on the tradition in a positive way which we urge the university clubs to take up.

‘We are asking the university clubs and the MCC to support the men’s and women’s teams equally and to make a firm commitment prior to the men stepping out on Sunday, that this will be the last year in which the men retain exclusive access to the ground.

‘Whilst we appreciate the MCC’s offer, it means nothing without the clubs agreeing it will happen.’

Female professional cricketers have jumped in to support the campaign.

Kelly Castle – who plays for team Sunrisers in the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy – said: ‘For the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to play for Cambridge University Cricket Club through the MCCU programme.

Kelly Castle – who plays for team Sunrisers in the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Trophy – said: ‘For the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to play for Cambridge University Cricket Club through the MCCU programme

‘I’ve loved every moment of my time being part of the team, however the level of inequality is hurtful and upsetting.

‘Let’s move forward, make change, and stump out sexism.’ 

Earlier this year new MCC president Clare Connor said she wanted to create a permanent memorial at Lord’s for the most celebrated woman in the game, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint.

However some members were reported as describing this as ‘gesture politics’. 

Lord’s is arguably the world’s most famous cricket ground and is widely referred to as the ‘Home of Cricket’.

Named after its founder, professional cricketer Thomas Lord, it was fist established in 1817 – though it has moved twice. 

It is owned by Marylebone Cricket, who are famous for deciding the rules of cricket.

But is also known as being slightly old fashioned and slow to move with the times.

Members still have to wear suits or tailored jackets with ties in the famous pavilion and there is a ban on fancy dress for spectators – which is unusual when compared to other grounds.

MailOnline has contacted the MCC and both Oxford and Cambridge University for comment. 

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