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Tuesday, September 29, 1998 Published at 21:12 GMT 22:12 UK


MCC gets Lottery green light

Women will now be allowed into the hallowed Long Room

Sports Minister Tony Banks says Marylebone Cricket Club, which voted to end its 211-year-old ban on women members, can now apply for National Lottery cash.

"I'm quite certain in due course that they will get it," he said.

Tony Banks: I hope the Lottery is not the only reason they included women
"They've taken 211 years to get there, but it took us 700 years before we ended up with a woman in the chair as Speaker of the House of Commons, so it's good to see progress."

The club, based at Lord's cricket ground in London, was prevented from applying for Lottery cash because its men-only rule broke the Sports Council's equal rights policy.

[ image: Tony Banks: Good to see progress]
Tony Banks: Good to see progress
Mr Banks and Prime Minister Tony Blair criticised the MCC after it held a ballot in February in which a 56% vote to admit women failed to overcome the two-thirds rule.

The MCC committee, fearing that the male-only policy would embarrass the club during next year's World Cup and cost it vital corporate sponsorship and Lottery funding, then embarked on a campaign to persuade members of the virtues of allowing women to join.

The ballot on Monday resulted in 9,394 votes (69.8%) for change, with 4,072 (30.2%) against.

BBC Sports Correspondent Neil Bennett: Life at cricket's HQ will never be quite the same again
MCC committee member Anthony Wreford, chairman of the working party on women members, said the club was "likely" to ask for lottery money to help promote the game rather than to improve facilities.

But no immediate bids had been prepared, he said.

He said: "There is a great cricketing interest among children with over 330,000 playing in schools around the country - we want to develop our existing schools programme with coaching and special roadshows."

[ image: Rachael Heyhoe Flint: A wonderful day for women]
Rachael Heyhoe Flint: A wonderful day for women
Incoming MCC President Tony Lewis pledged that he would mark the historic vote by creating an MCC Women's team.

As well as clearing the way for women to enter the hallowed Long Room at Lord's, the vote means 10 women will be made honorary members by the spring, and six becoming honorary members each year in following years.

BBC Sports Correspondent Neil Bennett: Things are going to be different quite quickly
Playing women cricketers will become fully fledged members by 2001, after qualifying by playing 10 games over two years.

Other women wanting to become members will have to join thousands of men on the waiting list - currently 18 years long.

The vote was welcomed by MCC committee members and leading women cricketers including former England women's captain Rachael Heyhoe Flint who said it was a "wonderful day for women".

[ image: The club will keep a male-only bar]
The club will keep a male-only bar
But it was condemned by many MCC members, some of whom voiced their anger in a packed special general meeting at Lord's.

However, women would not be completely immersed in cricket's headquarters.

One bar in the pavilion at Lord's will be kept for men only "on an experimental basis".

Around 3,600 women, 374,000 primary school girls and 83,000 secondary school girls play cricket in England and Wales.

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