By Nadia T. Gruny
Click the image on the right to download the full report. The report was sent to authorities in ICC Americas in February 2014 along with questions and no response has been given to date. The support for the return of the ICC Americas Women’s Championship is growing and is evidenced by the launch of the Womens Cricket Now petition — an initiative of women cricketers of the region.
ICC Americas Regional Development Manager (RDM), Mr. Ben Kavanagh, proposed to the ICC Development Committee to eliminate an ICC Americas Women’s Qualifier tournament and forego a spot for a regional representative at the next Women’s World Cup Qualifier. His proposal was approved. This qualifier event has been a fixture on the ICC Americas calendar since 2006. There will be no Americas qualifier event for the next two years at least.
The RDM identified reasons which are merely points, to justify his decision. More importantly, as long as there are women interested and capable of competing in the region, there is no reason that can justify the absence of Americas’ representation at a World Cup Qualifier event. However, for the sake of argument, let us explore the points communicated by various sources operating under the auspices of ICC:
- There is no domestic structure in the US and Canada for women
Response: There has been no structure for men in the US. The last men’s national tournament occurred in 2010 while the women competed in a national tournament in 2011. It is naturally very challenging to create a domestic structure in a country that spans over 3 million square miles with a sport introduced to women in the US only four years ago.
- There are only three women club teams in the US
Response: There are eight women’s teams in the US. A 300% increase since 2009. More importantly, 2013 has been the most active year in US women’s cricket history without any national or international tournaments. These efforts were undertaken by local leagues, clubs, and players themselves, demonstrating the growing interest and commitment to women’s cricket.
- In countries such as Brazil and Argentina where there are domestic structures for women’s cricket, the performance level is too low
Response: It is the purpose of a development region – to grow the sport and improve performance levels. Everyone has to start somewhere. In a developing region, focus should be placed on progress, rather than short-term results. Those who were present since 2006 can attest to progress across the region.
- The ratio of the number of women playing in the US versus the size of a team, does not justify expenditure for a tournament.
Response: The population size is teasing but establishing an office does not unlock the full potential of a country automatically. This requires a long-term plan (at least 10 years) such as that undertaken by the United States Youth Cricket Association, and more funding. Until then, the US will remain a sleeping giant.
With millions playing soccer in the US, the men’s national team recruits German-born and –raised Americans to fill half of its roster – recognizing that with all of the richness of US facilities and resources, US men still cannot perform to the level of countries where soccer is ingrained into the culture and fabric of the nation. Therefore, numbers do not always equate to quality and should not be used as a reason to not host a tournament if the required number of players to participate is met.
Rather than denying women from participating, these are justifications to increase funding from ICC to the region.
The fundamentals of sports development require that one provides increasing opportunities to all members of society. To expand, this refers to increasing the opportunities available to the current generation to grow and develop future generations. The sports development model includes four levels: foundation, participation, performance, and excellence. To build a sustainable sport, the level to achieve excellence must be known. As ICC denies women opportunities for excellence, all levels of participation below will fade as girls and women realize the pathway leads to nowhere.
To cite reasons for denying women from a World Cup Qualifier that are consistent with that of the men’s game in the region, is to discriminate and/or penalize women for the shortcomings of the administrations of the region. Leading sports governing bodies and governments worldwide such as the IOC, the United Nations, the US Government and others have been proactive in reforms to advance the cause of women on and off the field in order to break gender inequity. Organizations such as ICC do not invest in women’s sports to make a profit but rather, these investments are made to advance the cause of women. Preserving an Americas (and every developing region) spot at the World Cup Qualifier event is a necessary component to ICC’s demonstration of commitment to developing women’s cricket. Stripped to the bones of the matter, this is essentially a mishandling of an issue by persons involved, who may have had a lapse in taking women’s sports seriously.