Government clears way for Zimbabwe tour
Saturday 01 May 2004
The realities of international cricket politics appear to have convinced the Government that there is little alternative to England's tour of Zimbabwe in October going ahead. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday that, although he did not like the idea of England visiting the strife-torn country, he did not believe the future of the English game should be put in jeopardy by penalties imposed by the International Cricket Council if the tour was cancelled.
In a written reply to Michael Ancram, his Conservative opposite number, Straw acknowledged the "very difficult decision" the England and Wales Cricket Board had to take, particularly in the light of the ICC's meeting in March, which voted to impose financial penalties if the tour was called off without Government advice to do so.
Straw added: "This meeting appears to have given the ECB a choice between a tour which is difficult to defend on moral grounds and financial penalties which might bankrupt the game. I do not like the idea of an England team touring Zimbabwe any more than you do, but I do not believe that the future of English cricket should be put in jeopardy as a result of the failure of others to acknowledge the appalling situation there."
The Foreign Secretary said the Government had no powers to ban a sporting organisation from touring. "There is no evidence that any ministerial statement would be sufficient for the International Cricket Council to allow the ECB to postpone the tour," he wrote. "In those circumstances, I do not believe it would be right that the British taxpayer should have to carry the financial liability which could flow from cancellation of the tour."
He added: "Later this month, the Australian cricket team is due to tour Zimbabwe and you will be aware of the statements made by the Australian Government on this issue. Their opposition to the Mugabe regime - like ours - is beyond question. Yet they also believe that decisions about cricket tours must remain with the relevant cricketing authorities."
David Morgan, the ECB chairman, said he believed England would be kicked out of the ICC if they refused to tour. "Sri Lanka are in Zimbabwe and Australia are planning to go," he said. "Why shouldn't England go? Against that background, the board members and directors of the ECB believe that, provided it is safe and secure, this tour has to go ahead. I do not believe England touring or not touring will make any difference to the situation in Zimbabwe."
Some players have already voiced doubts about touring and it is believed England may send a second-string side as the ECB grudgingly fulfils its obligation.
It also remains to be seen how critics will view this apparent about-turn by the Government, which until now had offered little but condemnation for those suggesting that English cricket should have anything to do with Zimbabwe. By taking this stance, it appears that English cricket has a price, no matter how strongly anyone feels about the morals of giving credibility to Mugabe's evil regime. There must be doubts whether the short-term gain from this decision will have more far-reaching effects in the future.
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food