Home of world cricket may move from Lord's to Dubai

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The Independent Online

The International Cricket Council has taken a step closer to quitting its traditional headquarters at Lord's and relocating to Dubai in a move that may be seen as another blow to the deteriorating relationship between English cricket and the sport's governing body.

With the issue of whether England tour Zimbabwe this autumn still simmering, the ICC president Ehsan Mani, of Pakistan, and the chief executive, Malcolm Speed, have met representatives of the Dubai government to discuss a possible move and said they were "pleased with the positive response."

The idea of relocating was discussed by the ICC's executive board in March, after officials prepared a report evaluating the merits of staying at Lord's compared with six other potential bases in Dubai, Malaysia, Monaco, Ireland, Switzerland and Singapore.

The ICC says there were space and financial considerations behind the proposal. Working conditions at Lord's, also home to the MCC and the England and Wales Cricket Board, are cramped with little apparent scope for expansion. The Lord's offices house 20 staff but for tax reasons the ICC's financial headquarters are in Monaco, with only administrative matters dealt with in London.

The logical step would be to site all of the business in Monaco but if that is not possible, Dubai and Malaysia would be the next choice as these countries would offer tax exemption similar to that enjoyed by world football's governing body, Fifa, and the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland. A move from London would also bring savings on overheads.

But it would be interpreted in some quarters as a political development. Ever since the ICC was originally conceived as the Imperial Cricket Conference, in 1909, London has been its base, underlining England's traditional reputation as the epicentre of the cricketing world.

Its status is more symbolic than real these days but to lose it now would only deepen the rift between the ECB and the ICC, whose relationship has been severely strained over the ICC's insistence, backed by threats of massive financial penalties, that England tour Zimbabwe in spite of far reaching moral objections and Government disapproval.

With a large expatriate population of Indians, Dubai has strong links with the sub-Continent, which sees itself increasingly as the power base of world cricket. Mani insisted the ICC would "need to have very, very good reasons to justify the move" but feels there is a case.

"At present we have two offices and we would like to have both working under one roof," he said."The decision is not easy since many other countries have shown interest but we will narrow down the choice to just two cities before submitting the proposal to our board meeting in London in June."