Benedict Smith, PA
Sun, 9 October 2022 at 4:24 pm
Stephen Fry has defended a now shelved proposal to scrap the annual Eton-Harrow Lord’s cricket fixture, saying it was an attempt to make the sport more inclusive rather than an example of “woke-ism”.
The actor and writer, who became president of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) this month, was forced into a U-turn when the policy drew outrage from members.
Interviewed on Times Radio, Fry suggested that a competition drawing in other schools would allow students to earn their place in a final.
“It saddens me if people think that there’s an element of woke-ism about that, because it’s only about opening the game up as much as possible,” he said.
“Imagine if there was a Road to Lords inter-school competition, which meant that your son or daughter was playing in the final because they had earned the right by beating other schools – one would be so much prouder.
“I’m not being all woke and wet-blankety… It’s not about banning Eton and Harrow, it’s about opening it up to more schools. If there is an opportunity without ruining the pitch, then I’m all for it.”
Despite receiving Fry’s backing to axe the annual Eton-Harrow and Oxford-Cambridge matches at Lord’s, the MCC recently shelved the proposal amid a members’ revolt.
According to The Telegraph, it feared losing an advisory vote and that its reputation could be damaged with the fallout from a fractious club meeting.
Fry had argued the move would allow cricket to lose its “turgid image of snobbery and elitism”, while some members said the games – which date back to the 19th century – should be preserved as Lord’s traditions.
Elsewhere in the interview, Fry compared cricket to the royal family as “extraordinary historic” traditions that survived by changing with the times.
“They’re both institutions that are known around the world, that are a bit quirky and eccentric for outsiders,” he said.
“And yet they also have survived by adapting through time, evolving, changing according to the temper of the times.
“I think that’s what the MCC and cricket can do, is keep that marvellous and special feeling of a game and how it developed over the years… But also opening it up to lots of people.”