Women’s Twenty20 cricket is one of three new sports that could be added to the programme of events at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, after proposals from local organisers were given approval by the Commonwealth Games Federation’s (CGF’s) Executive Board.
Under the proposals, beach volleyball and para table tennis have also been recommended for inclusion in the programme, in a move that could see more medals available for women and more para-sports included, than at any other previous edition of the Commonwealth Games.
The three sports have been selected following an Additional Sports Review process that also included archery and shooting. The latter two sports have failed to make the cut, with shooting having featured in every Commonwealth Games since 1966, with the exception of the 1970 event.
A panel of representatives from the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee; Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; Birmingham City Council and Commonwealth Games England deemed that factors such as the para-sport element of table tennis, commercial benefits, broader appeal to broadcast viewers and spectators, the showcasing of iconic Birmingham venues and the positive effect on the atmosphere and festival feel of the Games were more prevalent in the other sports considered.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) officially submitted a bid for women’s cricket to be included in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in November as part of ongoing efforts to boost cricket’s position in multi-sport events. The efforts made in conjunction with the ECB could now see cricket return to the Commonwealth stage for the first time since its only appearance to-date in 1998, when South Africa took the men’s title in Kuala Lumpur.
Birmingham 2022 said the addition of women’s cricket to the schedule is likely to be popular not only with spectators locally in the English city, but also for fans across competing nations, with 90% of the sport’s one billion fans worldwide thought to reside in the Commonwealth. Matches would be played at Birmingham’s Edgbaston Stadium, which is currently a host venue for the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
Birmingham 2022 said the inclusion of the new sports will bring a young and diverse audience to the Games, a pivotal factor in the selection of beach volleyball. Boasting full stadia throughout both the London 2012 Olympic Games and Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, it is believed that beach volleyball could enjoy similar success for Birmingham 2022. Teamed with its broad appeal, it was felt the inclusion of the sport could bring an added energy and dynamism to the programme.
Para table tennis meanwhile could be integrated into the existing table tennis programme. Its introduction would further the diversity of the programme by showcasing an unprecedented eighth para-sport.
Ian Reid, CEO of Birmingham 2022, said: “Our recommendation of adding women’s cricket, beach volleyball and para table tennis is the result of a thorough review and we believe these sports would help us to enhance the existing programme and reach new audiences, while showcasing the sports to our local community, spectators and fans across the world, watching on TV.
“It’s also a selection that could help ensure that the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be the most inclusive in history, with a potential for the largest ever para-sports programme and more female medallists than ever before, representing a great story not just for Birmingham 2022, but for women’s sport in general.”
The plans will be put to a final vote of the CGF’s General Assembly, which is made up of the 71 member Commonwealth Games Associations. If accepted, the additions would mean that Birmingham 2022 would exceed the CGF’s agreed limit for the number of athletes taking part in optional sports and would also mean the inclusion of six team sports, as opposed to the CGF’s current limit of four.
CGF President, Dame Louise Martin DBE, said: “Following a careful review, the CGF Executive Board agreed to recommend to our Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) that they approve the proposed sports joining the programme. However, for the sports to be confirmed, we will need to receive a positive response from a minimum of 51% of the CGAs. We must respect this process and hope to make a positive announcement in late July or early August following the conclusion of the vote.”
The application for inclusion of women’s cricket for Birmingham 2022 is part of the global ambition for cricket to inspire and empower women and girls around the world and to drive greater levels of inclusivity and opportunity throughout the sport.
Commenting on the Birmingham 2022 announcement, ICC Chief Executive Manu Sawhney said: “We are committed to accelerating the growth of the women’s game and breaking down barriers and gender stereotypes along the way. We share our ambition to deliver greater equality, fairness and opportunity in sport with the Commonwealth Games Federation.
“The platform of Birmingham 2022 will provide a springboard for women’s cricket and will inspire and engage young girls around the world to be part of this wonderful and inclusive sport.”