The Hundred: Why the ECB must change ‘sexist’ ticket policy

ECB

Granted it’s only been a few days, but ostensibly The Hundred has delivered on its stated aim so far.

With increased coverage and more exposure to the women’s competition, a legion of new fans has been created –– ultimately enhancing the growth of the women’s game as promised.

Yet, as much as the ECB have succeeded in this regard and levelled the playing field to some extent, problems related to gender inequality continue to persist.

What’s the problem?

The latest concern relates to customer refunds for matches. Aside from the first game of the tournament –– a stand-alone fixture between the Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals – all matches are double-headers, with a women’s game taking place before the ensuing men’s tie.

Inevitably, however, the English summer has delivered its fair share of rain and some matches, including yesterday’s men’s derby between the Invincibles and London Spirit, was washed out due to bad weather.

While the earlier women’s game was completed and saw the Invincibles win by 15 runs, ECB policy currently dictates that customers will only receive a refund if the men’s game is postponed.

This means that if the earlier women’s match is postponed and the men’s game takes place, then customers are not entitled to a refund –– essentially rendering the women’s fixtures free of charge.

This bizarre ruling was raised by former Middlesex captain and cricket journalist Isabelle Westbury on Twitter, who commented that, while this is a clear error of judgment, it is perhaps “oversight more than any intentional devaluing of [the] women’s game.”

According to the ECB, the decision was made before the idea of double-headers came to fruition. Having seen how well the women’s game has been received now though, cricket’s governing body has revealed they will re-evaluate.

Speaking to the Telegraph, an ECB official said: “With the women's competition securing amazing support from fans, we need to consider if our current approach is now the appropriate one.”


Why is this so insulting to women’s cricket?

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a pressing issue. Fans who did make it to Lords for the earlier contest watched for free and were treated to an Alice Capsey masterclass.

Equally though, as fans have pointed out, this could be seen as ‘insulting’ and ‘off-brand’ for an organisation priding itself on equality.

Indeed, the refund policy suggests a lack of faith in the women’s game to pull in fans. No belief that perhaps some people had willingly bought tickets to watch both games, or maybe even just the women’s fixture.

Offering money back for games that may actually take place, such as yesterday’s London derby, will not encourage sceptics to get to the ground earlier. Rather, it is another excuse for fans to ignore the women’s contest under the knowledge that what they have paid for is the men’s game.


What’s the solution?

What’s patently clear is the ECB must do something, especially if it is to maintain the image of looking out for women’s cricket. Right now, it is offering tickets to women’s matches for free and that is not a good look.

In the short term, the solution could be a 50/50 split. Half a refund for each game that is called off, irrespective of whether this is men or women.

Longer-term, the scheduling has to be addressed. At the moment, the women’s games always take place first, meaning many fans with tickets skip the earlier tie and arrive for the men’s match.

Should these fixture times be alternated, with some of the women’s games scheduled for the evening then the refund policy becomes far simpler. So long as one match takes place on any given day, the ECB would have grounds to charge the full amount.

If an earlier men’s match was postponed but the weather dried up in time for the later women’s tie, then fans would likely be far more willing to stick around and ensure they got their money’s worth.

Ultimately, this is a sticking point in what has so far been a successful start to a brand new competition.

Already, there have been several great moments –– Dane Van Niekerk’s heroics in the opening game, Jemimah Rodrigues’ splendid knock against the Welsh Fire and Capsey’s match-winning half-century for the Invincibles.

These players are putting on a show so far and it’s more than worth the entrance fee.

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