This is a companion piece to Raf’s feature piece for The Cricket Monthly, ‘When women stormed the citadel’.
20 years ago this week, on 27 September 1998, MCC members took part in the most important vote in the club’s history. At last, after a campaign that had lasted a decade, the necessary two-thirds majority in favour of accepting women as members was achieved.
Two decades down the line, I spoke to two of the MCC’s female members to find out what has changed in the interim period: Saba Nasim, a Chance to Shine cricket coach from East London and currently a Probationary Member, and Danni Warren, MCC and Middlesex Head of Women’s Cricket.
Q: When and why did you decide to apply for MCC membership?
“I heard about being a member a few years ago, but just never got round to filling in the form. It wasn’t until about 2 years ago, I think it was 2016, I found out that one of the guys at my club [Wanstead] was actually a committee member. I asked him the process and he said ‘yeah I can nominate you if you want’. I’ve played at quite a lot of clubs anyway and I enjoy meeting new people, playing different levels of cricket.” [Saba Nasim]
“I’ve been a member for about 8 years. I first joined when I was playing a bit more cricket. I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed playing MCC cricket. You get to play some very different cricket: I’ve played some two-day games against the Young Cricketers in the past, down to playing against a school who really hadn’t played much cricket up until 6 weeks before we played them. You get some very good experiences playing against different players. I spend a lot of my time now trying to convince other people trying to do the same!” [Danni Warren]
Q: Do you feel accepted as a woman within MCC?
“Yes, definitely. The matches I’ve played and the people I’ve met, they’ve always been for the idea that women should be part of MCC. Everyone’s been very welcoming and we had a lot of fun on the recent MCC Women Belgium tour – I can’t wait to go on the next one. MCC matches are really fun games, they’re competitive but they’re also all about the Spirit of Cricket which I really enjoy. I’m a coach as well so I always try to get that in the kids, you should play hard but you should play fair and enjoy yourself, so I really enjoy those games. They’re a little bit different to the club games and the county games I play, in that they’re a little more fun and there’s a social aspect to it as well.” [SN]
“I never really felt at all daunted, or as if it was something that was that big a deal when somebody gave me a form. It was just another opportunity to play more cricket. I knew a lot of members and therefore I wanted to play a bit more cricket with them. Part of my job now as MCC and Middlesex head of women’s cricket is about membership growth – trying to encourage more female members, especially playing members. The MCC men will play 500-odd matches a year, versus the 25 that the women play. Fewer people will find themselves on the receiving end of an MCC match than would do in the men’s game and therefore we’re trying to increase the exposure that we can get. The more members we get, the more games we can play.” [DW]
Q: Can more be done to promote female membership?
“At the moment MCC is quite a white club, but people are starting to realise it doesn’t have to be. If you have someone in each club that knows how to join, we’ll definitely get many more members from diverse backgrounds. It’s still quite a lot of white women playing, but it’s definitely changing. Women’s cricket as a whole has changed, we’re getting different communities involved in the sport now, we’re making women’s cricket accessible for them.” [SN]
“From what I’ve found, speaking to people in the last year or so, it’s awareness of the role that MCC play as a club. Women that play cricket aren’t necessarily aware of it, whereas men tend to grow up with it in the background, or they’ve been part of a game where MCC have played their club or played their county side or something that they’ve been able to see. In the women’s game there’s not that awareness – we’re trying to increase that.
Part of my job is running the new women’s Academy based at Lord’s – the idea is to bring talented players that are in or close to first team cricket through, and give them opportunities to progress up the pathway. It’s been really successful, with a large number of the players playing first team cricket or getting into KSL sides. They are encouraged to and have already played in some MCC matches. A number of them have signed off membership application already or have played as guests in matches. Very much a by-product of it is we want more players who are in the county system at present being able to play as playing members to join the club, to play our matches against schools and clubs and leagues, and to be able to help grow the game.” [DW]