ECB: Vic Stewart – ‘Cricket is not just saying change must happen; it is making change happen’

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Photo Credit: ECB

With a lifelong love of cricket and an impressive career in finance, new Lancashire Cricket non-executive Honorary Director, Vic Stewart, is determined to help the sport grow and become more inclusive.

I grew up just 10 minutes from Emirates Old Trafford. Listening to Test Match Special and watching England were summer rituals throughout my childhood. But until my appointment at Lancashire Cricket, I’d never worked in cricket – and I think that’s incredibly important as the sport looks to diversify its leadership and better serve the communities that want to play the game.

We all know cricket is a brilliant spectator sport. It’s welcoming for families and it’s a full day out, so you can take the time to enjoy everything that’s happening. But now the task is to spread the word and make cricket more inclusive to every part of the country. Hopefully, my experience can help us do exactly that.

I’m currently Chief Financial Officer at the Alchemist Bar and Restaurant Group, and also founder of the 6% Club, a group bringing more women in to the corporate finance and dealmaking community. As well as my passion for equality, the main thing I bring is experience of sustainable growth from my time at the Alchemist. We have a CFO at Lancashire CCC who’s doing a brilliant job, and I’m looking forward to my role supporting her.

At the Alchemist, we’ve gone from being a small business to now having 22 cocktail bars in the UK and overseas. We’ve done it in a sensible way, working with our local communities and our staff at every step. That’s so important in business and it’s vital in cricket, too. How do we grow sustainably without putting the game we love at risk?

We’re living through a crucial moment for cricket. We have huge opportunities in the women’s game, which is an area I’m so passionate about. I want to get more women involved as both spectators and players. We need a wider range of people participating in cricket at schools and at school-age. And there is also lots we can do to make grounds across the country more accessible, which is something I know the team at Lancashire have been working really hard to do.

To help achieve these goals, cricket is now actively looking to appoint people with different skillsets and experiences outside the game, which is such a welcome approach. By bringing new people into the game, we can access new perspectives and fresher thinking. That’s always positive for any business.

The changes we’re seeing at the ECB are also very encouraging. The game is not just saying change must happen; it is making change happen. There are actions now taking place at the very top of the sport that will have knock-on effects throughout the entire cricket network.

The direction of travel is clear. In 2019, 11% of people on cricket boards were female. Today, that figure stands at 34%. Almost one in five board members are ethnically diverse, when four years ago it was just one in 20. And over the last two years alone, more than 150 new directors have been appointed across the game.

Last month I got the chance to meet many of these new directors at an ECB-hosted event at the Metro Bank One-Day Cup final. It was a fantastic opportunity to discuss the challenges and opportunities the game faces. I came away heartened knowing that the vision and energy of so many talented people is being harnessed to help cricket secure a stronger, healthier future than ever before.

In my day job, I work in an extremely male community. I’m conscious of the need to be visible, because working as CFO in a private equity-backed company is something many women think isn’t available to them. I want to do the same thing in cricket: show women that roles and opportunities are there for them.

It’s a serious job, but at the same time I don’t want to lose that excitement I’ve had about cricket since being a little girl. Being able to take my parents to Emirates Old Trafford this summer to experience the Ashes was one of my proudest moments. It feels like we’ve come full circle, because cricket’s always been such a big part of our lives. They’re super proud to see me working at Lancashire. I hope I can do them, and anyone who wants to participate in cricket, justice.

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