Stephen Fry lambasts MCC as ‘stinking of privilege and classism’ (2024)

Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) “stinks” of privilege and is full of “beetroot-coloured gentlemen”, Stephen Fry, its former president, has said.

The actor and writer has spoken of the “disturbing” image of the 237-year-old MCC, which he led from 2022 to 2023.

Fry said that the “privilege and classism” exemplified by the MCC “just stinks”, as he addressed issues of diversity and inclusion in cricket.

Speaking at the Hay Festival, the author said that the annual Eton versus Harrow match, traditionally hosted by the MCC at Lord’s, typified this class privilege.

Fry, 66, also skewered his fellow MCC members, saying of the club: “It has a public face that is deeply disturbing, sort of beetroot-coloured gentleman in yellow-and-orange blazers sitting in this space in front of the Long Room and looking as if they’d come out of an Edwardian cartoon.”

It was suggested that the image of the MCC could be a barrier to inclusion, during a discussion of class and racial barriers to young people enjoying the sport.

The actor’s comments came during a panel discussion on diversity in cricket featuring Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire cricketer who from 2020 raised concerns about racial abuse at the club.

These complaints ultimately led to Yorkshire receiving a £400,000 fine and having 48 points docked.

This led to a further review of English cricket launched by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, which concluded in a report last year that the sport was racist, sexist and elitist.

Fry has previously claimed that the sport of cricket would die if issues of racism were not addressed,

Speaking during a lecture at Lord’s in 2021 following Rafiq’s initial claims of racism, Fry said: “Unless all our nation’s sons and daughters with the talent and desire to have a life in cricket are confident that cricket will want to have a life with them, the spirit of cricket, its very flame, will flicker and go out.”

He called for “deep structural change” in the sport to address the issues raised by Rafiq.

Fry has also embraced changes in cricket to make the sport more gender-inclusive.

In 2021, the MCC approved alterations to the laws of the game – one of the MCC’s major remaining responsibilities within the sport – to ditch the time-honoured term “batsman” in favour of the gender-neutral “batter”.

Fry said that any opposition to the move would fade out, saying: “It’s only our generation, the generation of readers who are upset by ‘batter’, who will hiccup when they hear it, and wish to hear the old term. But it will very quickly pass.”

The actor was also among the famous figures who have called for women to be admitted to the male-only Garrick Club, signing a letter earlier this year threatening to quit if the rules were not amended.

Speaking at Hay, Fry said that it was awkward to be president of the MCC as a white man during the period when allegations of racism were first emerging.

He said: “I felt slightly embarrassed to be president of the MCC at exactly this time, because I thought I’m the perfect example of the problem has been for hundreds of years, largely, fleshy, white Englishmen, public school, Oxbridge, that are running things.”

Speaking at the event in Hay, Rafiq countered by saying that simply increasing diversity at a high level was not enough, and cited Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, as an example of diversity alone not solving problems.

He said that “middle-aged white men” had been his greatest supporters when he first levelled his allegations of racism.

The off-spin bowler added that more needed to be done to encourage racial inclusion in cricket, including pushing the social side of the sport away from focus on alcohol.

He said: “Club cricket, a lot of cricket, revolves around alcohol. The minute you turn up to a club, to the minute you leave, is around alcohol.

“It excludes Muslims and everyone that doesn’t drink.

“The game needs to evolve its economy so it doesn’t just, at the recreational level, just revolve around alcohol.”

Rafiq, 33, thanked Gary Ballance, his former Yorkshire teammate who admitted to being racist in the team’s dressing room and apologised in person for any offence.

Rafiq claimed that without Ballance’s “honesty”, the inquiry into alleged racism at Yorkshire would have been a “whitewash”, because no clear examples may have been found to support his claims.

Stephen Fry lambasts MCC as ‘stinking of privilege and classism’ (2024)
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