MCC 'not woke' in dumping Eton v Harrow, Oxford v Cambridge
The chief executive of Marylebone Cricket Club insisted Tuesday the decision to remove Eton v Harrow and Oxford v Cambridge from its annual fixture list at Lord's "did not arise as a result of any 'anxiety to kowtow to the woke police'".
Last week MCC, the owners of Lord's in northwest London, announced that the fixtures between the elite fee-paying schools and England's two oldest universities would no longer be guaranteed to be staged at the 'home of cricket' from next year.
Both matches have been played at Lord's since the 19th century.
MCC chief executive Guy Lavender wrote to the club's 23,000 members on Tuesday saying this "was not a decision which was taken lightly".
He also left open the possibility of the matches taking place at Lord's in future "to mark a significant anniversary or event".
Lavender said one reason for the change was to reduce the amount of cricket played on the main ground because "the MCC's overwhelming priority must be to ensure that we are able to deliver the highest quality pitches for professional cricket" for county and international matches.
- 'Constraints' -
The other main driving factor was to give a wider range of players, including youth and women's cricketers, the chance to play at Lord's.
As a result, MCC had "concluded that it was no longer sustainable to use two days' cricket on the main ground to stage, on an annual basis, the same four institutions".
Several MCC members lamented what they saw as the abandonment of cherished traditions when the changes were announced last week.
Henry Blofeld, the cricket commentator who played in both fixtures -- he was a schoolboy at Eton and a student at Cambridge -- told The Times: "I suppose the 'antis' will be cheering and old farts like me will be sad. It is inevitable with the way that society has moved."
MCC has often been portrayed by critics as hopelessly reactionary and elitist, an image Lavender and his colleagues in senior management are desperate for the club to shed.
But Lavender insisted: "This decision did not arise as a result of any 'anxiety to kowtow to the woke police' as recently reported in the media.
"I have no doubt that members wish to enable young people to play at Lord's based on their talent and success in reaching the finals of competitions.
"Faced with constraints on the number of matches able to be played on the main ground, the committee made this decision in support of this aim."
Although several former England captains, including Colin Cowdrey and Mike Smith (Oxford) and Mike Brearley and Mike Atherton (Cambridge), have played in the Varsity match, the universities no longer have first-class cricket status.
Eton and Harrow have played each other at Lord's since 1805, with the poet George Byron taking part in the inaugural game.