Sunday, September 27, 1998 Published at 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
MCC set to accept women
MCC: Wants to welcome women
The Marylebone Cricket Club, the world's oldest, looks likely to vote in favour of accepting female members for the first time in its 211-year history after hard campaigning by its committee.
But the plan could still face stiff opposition from MCC members who feel they are being pressured into accepting women, because corporations are reluctant to sponsor the club while it excludes female members.
The MCC committee, which is holding a vote on the issue on Monday, says it want to be seen as more open when England hosts the cricket World Cup in 1999.
The controversial proposal was rejected in February despite 56% of members voting for women, because the MCC requires a two-thirds majority to change its constitution.
The decision provoked wide-ranging condemnation, including a statement by Prime Minister Tony Blair who said the club was "out of step".
The MCC committee responded by commissioning an expensive Mori poll of its members and enlisting influential figures like English Cricket Board chairman Lord MacLaurin, Sir Paul Getty and former England captain David Gower for the pro-women campaign.
The committee claimed it had lost the February vote because it failed to canvas the views of members on all sides of the debate.
President Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie and president-designate Tony Lewis underlined the importance of female membership to potential sponsors in a joint letter to all members of the MCC.
"It will be very difficult to find outside finance for MCC's external activities while the club excludes women from membership," they write.
Former England women's captain Rachel Heyhoe-Flint, who is in favour of female membership, expressed doubts about holding another ballot so soon after the last unsuccessful attempt.
"Having a second vote within six months and nothing radically changing since then could possibly annoy the members," she said.
"Perhaps a more considered time lapse might have been more preferable to many of the members.
"Many of them feel they are being bulldozed into this and they cannot see why there is the indecent haste - after all the club has been around since 1787."
One member said: "I think this new vote is appalling. It's like the government losing a general election and losing because of their policies and then saying they would like another vote because they didn't explain them properly."
But the man who is widely credited with bringing women into the ECB, Lord MacLaurin, said: "We desperately need to encourage youngsters - male and female - to take up the sport and do all we can to stimulate interest in the game and bring back the commercial support that is vital to the health of the game."