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Tuesday, February 24, 1998 Published at 21:13 GMT

Sport: Cricket

Modernisers stumped in MCC vote
image: [ MCC: sticking to tradition ]
MCC: sticking to tradition

One of cricket's most famous institutions, the Marylebone Cricket Club, has voted narrowly not to allow women membership.

The defeat for the pro-women camp comes as a major blow to the sport's modernisers who say the game cannot broaden its appeal unless it changes its traditions of 200 years.

At a special meeting held at Lord's cricket ground, North London, members heard that 6,969 had voted to allow women to join the MCC and 5,538 had voted against.

But despite the simple majority in favour of changing the rules, the pro-women camp failed to reach the necessary two-thirds majority needed because only 12,000 of the MCC's 18,000 members voted.

[ image: Lord's pavillion: the Queen is the only woman who can enter]
Lord's pavillion: the Queen is the only woman who can enter
The ballot comes 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 that 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.

Prominent sportswomen, including the former England women's cricket team captain, Rachael Heyhoe Flint, has backed the latest ballot.

[ image: MCC: all-male bastion]
MCC: all-male bastion
Women have been playing cricket since 1745 and have made a valuable contribution to the game's development, she said.

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 about 170 a year which allows them free entry to all Lord's matches, including Test matches.

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