Cricket's ruling body may quit UK over tax bill

The International Cricket Council has threatened to abandon London and Lord's as the world headquarters of the sport in favour of Dublin, Singapore or even Monaco, unless it is given major tax concessions.

The International Cricket Council has threatened to abandon London and Lord's as the world headquarters of the sport in favour of Dublin, Singapore or even Monaco, unless it is given major tax concessions.

The council, which meets in Australia this week, has been conducting secret negotiations to persuade the Government to waive its UK tax bill in next month's budget. The ICC earns millions of pounds a year running tournaments and is understood to be frustrated that Britain imposes tax on international sporting bodies, unlike any of the other nine cricket playing nations.

A move away from London would be a considerable embarrassment to a country that still regards itself as the authentic home of the sport, particularly as Britain's rivals appear to include Monaco, Singapore, Ireland and the Netherlands, none of which have much cricketing pedigree. Britain has already lost the International Athletics Federation (IAF), which moved from London in 1993.

Yesterday, David Richards, the council's Australian chief executive, admitted that he had been involved in "preliminary discussions" with the Government on a number of issues, including possible relocation. A Government source confirmed that Richards complained about the ICC's tax bill.

Singapore would qualify geographically as a new headquarters, being midway between Australasia and the Indian sub-continent, two of cricket's foremost territories. Monaco might offer additional tax advantages but has no ties with the game, having joined none of the ICC's three membership grades; full, associate or affiliate. But the principality is the home of the IAF. Similarly, Dublin is now the headquarters of the International Rugby Board, though Ireland's rugby is somewhat more celebrated than its cricket. So far, Switzerland has not been examined, even superficially, although Fifa, soccer's governing body, is based in Zurich.

The ICC was established as the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1909, which held meetings as far as apart as three, five and nine years. In 1965 it became the International Cricket Conference and, finally, the International Cricket Council in 1989. But in none of these guises has it wielded any real power. It was a governing body only in name until recently when, belatedly, it set up an anti-corruption unit following the game's match-fixing scandals.

"The review currently under way considers a number of organisational issues, said Mr Richards. "This is a standard and entirely responsible business practice carried out to review the operational efficiency of the organisation.

"As part of this, several possible alternative locations for the ICC are being assessed but it should be stressed that no decision will be reached in the short term."

Staying in the UK remained an option: "In fact, the ICC is also involved in discussions about new or enlarged office facilities in its present location," he said.

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