Women’s sport is at the highest point it has ever been

Ebony Rainford-Brent feels women’s sport in the UK is “at the highest point it has ever been”.

Former England international Rainford-Brent, now director of women’s cricket at Surrey and a commentator, was speaking after collecting her MBE at Windsor Castle from the Prince of Wales on Tuesday.

The 38-year-old believes women’s cricket has come a long way since she started in the sport 28 years ago, but will continue to push for more.

Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent talks to the Prince of Wales

Ebony Rainford-Brent talks to the Prince of Wales (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She said: “Women’s sport is at the highest point it has ever been and I think actually I feel special seeing both sides of the coin.

“I think awareness and visibility is starting to happen. Next is investment.

“I think if you look from a women’s sport perspective, we need more money going in to increase the standard which then gets more broadcasting and then it kind of creates this cycle.

“I want to see the gender pay gap closed. At the moment, there’s still a huge gap in pay for females. It is closing, but it’s still a long way to go and I would like to see that accelerated.”

Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent with her mother

Rainford-Brent, with her mother Janet Rainford, was the first black woman to play for the England team (Steve Parsons/PA)

Rainford-Brent, the first black woman to play for England, was also recognised for her charity work after launching Surrey’s African-Caribbean Engagement (ACE) programme in January 2020, which aims to encourage black teenagers into cricket.

“I was honoured to be the first black woman to play but I always wanted to make sure that there were more young people that had that chance,” she said.

“It’s been a long, long journey but I think it’s an honour to be able to see the young people hopefully enjoy cricket and sport as much as it’s given me not just from a professional side, but also just developing yourself as a person.”

Emily Scarratt also received an MBE just days after helping England win their fourth consecutive Women’s Six Nations title.

Emily Scarratt with her MBE

Emily Scarratt with her MBE (Steve Parsons/PA)

The 32-year-old centre described collecting her MBE as “strange to do by yourself” given the nature of the team sport, but added it was a “huge honour”.

Reflecting on the progress of women’s rugby over the course of her career, she added: “Certainly since when I first started playing rugby and in the last however many years it’s just skyrocketed.

“We’ve broken attendance records at every home game we’ve had at this Six Nations, which is crazy, and I know lots of other nations have done the same at their respective venues.

“Giving these girls an opportunity to give their best by making them professional – we’ve seen the results of it by being professional ourselves – it just makes a massive, massive difference.”