TIME FINALLY caught up with one of the last bastions of male chauvinism last night when the Marylebone Cricket Club agreed after 200 years to allow women into its membership.
The historic vote, 69.8 per cent in favour, followed weeks of campaigning by the MCC's committee, which was anxious to change the club's old fogey image.
The overwhelming victory at a special general meeting overturned the result of a ballot taken in February, when 56 per cent voted to admit women. Although most members were in favour, the rules of the club demanded a two-thirds majority for the vote to carry.
Last month the Prime Minster, Tony Blair, and the Minister for Sport, Tony Banks, criticised the MCC for its backward views.
Jubilant committee members last night said that good sense had prevailed, although it has been suggested that the club may have been more worried about losing out on National Lottery money than about upsetting women's sensibilities. Chris Rea, the MCC's head of marketing and public affairs, said: "The overriding question is, are we a gentleman's club or are we a cricket club? We are a cricket club. No sponsors want to be involved with an organisation whose image is elitist, fuddy-duddy and old-fartish."
However one anti-women member, Robert Titchener-Barratt, said: "The committee have acted with arrogance and self-importance, saying 'We're going to push this through whether you members like it or not.'"
Rachael Heyhoe Flint, whose 1991 application first precipitated a vote on female membership, said last night: "I almost can't believe it. After seven years. I'm absolutely thrilled to bits."
Ms Heyhoe Flint could be among the six honorary members which the MCC will elect to join before next season. Most will have to join the 18-year waiting list, along with thousands of men.
Around 60 women may qualify to join through the newly introduced players' section, though this will take at least two years.
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