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Tuesday, February 24, 1998 Published at 14:25 GMT

Sport: Cricket

Maidens bowled in MCC ballot
image: [ Old Father Tme at Lords: critics say nothing changes at the MCC ]
Old Father Tme at Lords: critics say nothing changes at the MCC

One of cricket's most famous institutions, the Marylebone Cricket Club, is voting on whether to end two centuries of tradition and admit women as members.

But as members of the cricketing establishment gather at Lord's cricket ground in London to hear the results of the vote, reports suggest they have rejected the move to open up their ranks for the second time in a decade.

If the members refuse to allow women to enter the hallowed halls of the MCC, it will be seen by many as a major blow to the sport's attempts to broaden its appeal to a wider audience.

Although the vote is understood to have been "an incredibly close call", the two-thirds majority of the 18,000 members needed to change the rules has not been achieved, according to The Guardian newspaper.

[ image: Lord's pavillion: only the Queen can enter]
Lord's pavillion: only the Queen can enter
The ballot has come seven years after a similar vote failed to reach the necessary majority.

The MCC, which owns Lord's cricket ground, has barred women from joining since it was founded 211 years ago.

The Queen is the only woman who can enter the pavilion during play.

Before the ballot, club spokesman Stuart Weatherhead said that after a year of consultation the committee, led by president Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie, decided the time had come to recommend that women be admitted.

"The principle reason for reaching this decision was the positive effect it would have on MCC's public role which is now being re-defined as the International Cricket Council seeks to develop the game worldwide," Mr Weatherhead said.

Former England Cricket captain Rachel Heyhoe Flint's reaction (12")
The former England women's cricket team captain, Rachael Heyhoe Flint, welcomed the ballot.

She first raised the issue when she applied to join the MCC in 1991. Since then other women have tried, and failed, to challenge the MCC rules including former model Amanda Heathcote.

[ image: MCC: stumped by women?]
MCC: stumped by women?
Ms Heyhoe Flint said: "Seven years on I'm still not confident that there's going to be a majority. Last time round 10,000 members didn't bother to vote and there needs to be a two-thirds majority."

Women have been playing cricket since 1745 and have made a valuable contribution to the game's development, she added.

Ms Heyhoe Flint said: "It seems hypocritical of the MCC if they chose not to admit women as they are happy to promote cricket at every level.

"Even if they did vote to admit women there's an 18-year waiting list so I would be 76 by the time I was able to join."

Lord's is the only ground in English cricket where the pavilion is still restricted to men only during play.

MCC members pay a subscription of around £170 per annum which allows them free entry to all Lord's matches, including tests.

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21 Feb 98†|†UK
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