MCC U-turn as Eton-Harrow fixture is reinstated following members' revolt

Lord's pavilion in the sunshine Getty Images

MCC has performed a U-turn over the cancellation of its traditional Eton-Harrow and Oxford-Cambridge fixtures at Lord's, following a rebellion by a prominent group of members.

The fixtures, which have been held at Lord's (with rare exceptions) since 1805 and 1827 respectively, are among the longest-running annual sporting rivalries in the world.

However, both were due to be removed from the venue from 2023 onwards, with MCC announcing in February that the Eton-Harrow match would be replaced by the annual finals of boys' and girls' schools competitions, in a bid for greater inclusivity.

However, that decision has been met with disquiet by sections of the club's 18,500-strong voting membership, with a spokesman for the Committee for the Reinstatement of the Historic Fixtures at Lord's stating that it was "tantamount to cutting down oak trees to accommodate saplings".

With the prospect of a divisive row looming, MCC has now confirmed that a Special General Meeting, scheduled for Tuesday evening, has been cancelled, and a fresh vote on the status of the fixtures would be held at the club's AGM in May 2023.

"In the best interests of the club, the MCC committee has agreed to cancel the meeting," MCC said in a statement. "This has come at the request of the group of members this morning who challenged the original decision.

"While the committee and the requisitionists stand by their respective positions, the two parties will work together on next steps. These will include a consultation process between MCC and its members regarding the future of the two fixtures.

"Noting the time needed for this, it has been agreed by both parties that the Committee will invite the four institutions to play their respective matches (Eton v Harrow and Oxford v Cambridge) at Lord's again in 2023."

The climbdown is an embarrassment for the club's incoming president, Stephen Fry, who is due to take office on October 1, and this week spoke out in favour of the change of the move towards modernisation.

"My urging for MCC members is, 'If you really love cricket, don't you want more kids to play?'" he said on Sunday. "Don't you want it to lose that image that it sometimes still has: a turgid image of snobbery and elitism?"