MCC delays new vote on women members

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THE MCC yesterday chose not to speed towards the seemingly inevitable introduction of women members in a move that could be seen as typical of the way English cricket is run both on and off the field.

At its annual general meeting at Lord's, when it was thought the possibility of another ballot this autumn on the issue of women members would be discussed, the MCC instead sent out questionnaires to its existing members asking why they voted against the idea of women members in February.

Whether the questionnaire would be entitled "What's Your Problem?" was not revealed, nor were the precise questions. What is clear though is that with 55 per cent in favour of women members at the last count, and the MCC committee and the English Cricket Board also in favour, the wishes of the minority are holding sway.

A two-thirds majority was needed to end 200 years of male exclusivity and the outgoing MCC president, Colin Ingleby-McKenzie, said yesterday: "As a result of the recent vote I have received a large number of letters and from these it is clear that members voting against ladies becoming members have several very real concerns.

"The committee intends to send out a questionnaire to all members and [then] we shall be in a better position fully to address these concerns."

There is little doubt that the MCC would like to act swiftly to put an end to this nonsense, on two counts. First, the club is fast becoming an object of ridicule; and secondly a clause in proposals by the Equals Opportunities Commission for the Government that would make private clubs with any kind of public role admit both sexes.

It now seems that there will be no change in the club's constitution this year, and it may be a long time before women are adorning the Long Room at Lord's as there is an 18-year waiting list for membership.

In a further sop to existing members Mr Ingleby- McKenzie made it clear that special dispensation for women to be elected to the club does not look likely.

Still, it's not all gloom and doom: as a special treat, and in accordance with practice over the past two years, members will be able to introduce ladies as guests at three games this year. So if you fancy watching MCC versus Scotland, for example, you won't necessarily have to be wearing trousers.