Cricketing great awarded honorary degree from Loughborough University

Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent is seated at a desk wearing a red robe and hat. Standing to the left is Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Jennings and her mother, Janet Rainford. On the right is Chancellor, Lord Sebastian Coe.

(L-R) Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Chancellor and President of Loughborough University, Ebony's mum, Janet Rainford, Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent MBE, Lord Sebastian Coe, Chancellor of Loughborough University.

Former England cricketer Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent MBE has been awarded an honorary degree from Loughborough University.

Rainford-Brent, 39, made history in the sport by becoming the first Black woman to represent England in international cricket in 2001.

She is now an established broadcaster and a newly appointed Cricket Non-Executive Director for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and has been referred to as a “trailblazer” by the organisation’s Chair.

The award – in recognition of her outstanding contribution to cricket, TV and radio broadcasting, and her work championing diversity in sport – was presented at one of the University’s summer degree ceremonies on Tuesday 18 July 2023.

“The emotions are pretty high today,” Ebony said.

“Loughborough University has meant a lot to me throughout my playing career. I spent many years here chasing the dream of playing for my country and it really set me up for life – it’s special.

“It’s nice to have a moment and milestone to reflect on the journey so far. I’m feeling really honoured and to have my mum here too means so much.”

Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent stands on stage in front of graduates

‌During an illustrious playing career, Ebony was awarded many honours including winning the ICC Women’s World Cup in Australia and the ICC World T20 in 2009. She was also part of the England side to win the Ashes in the same year.

Ebony started her cricket career at Surrey CCC in the under-11s, and progressed through the ranks to the women’s senior side. She captained the team to promotion to the topflight of domestic women’s cricket in 2011.

A passionate advocate for diversity in cricket, Ebony launched the African-Caribbean Engagement Programme – ACE – in 2020, and within three years it had reached 10,000 children, and over 140 academy scholars train twice a week.

Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Chancellor and President of Loughborough University added: “We are immensely proud to award Ebony with an honorary degree from the University.

“She is a true champion of change in women’s cricket and her drive and commitment to reach equity in the sport is truly inspiring.

“The incredible work that Ebony spearheads to promote diversity is changing lives for the better. This is an incredible initiative that successfully engages hard to reach communities and that can only benefit both sport and wider society. We are all thrilled to recognise her today.”

Prior to the ceremony, Ebony also reflected on the development of the women’s game, including how much the sport has grown in recent years: “I’m fortunate to see that we’re in a period of exponential growth.

“We’re changing perceptions but it’s important that we keep going. Schools; parents; everyone; must know that men and women have an equal place in sport. There’s still so much more to achieve and we need to keep putting the foot on the gas and pushing for change.”

Whilst still playing, Ebony became one of the first coaching ambassadors for Chance to Shine, a national cricket charity that works in state schools and communities across the country. She continues to support the charity today. 

In 2015, she returned to Surrey as its first Director of Women’s Cricket – a role she held until 2022 – and also chaired the side’s Culture & Values Board. Through these roles she played a key part in developing the women’s game and in working on strategies to increase participation at all levels.

Ebony was awarded an MBE for her services to cricket and charity in 2022, collecting her award from the then Prince Charles.