English sports decline invite

Commonwealth Games
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Tim Lamb, chief executive of the England Cricket Board, has rejected claims made yesterday that his administration has refused to send a Test team to next year's Commonwealth Games.

A Games official is quoted as saying that England have turned down a chance to send their Test side to Kuala Lumpur at the end of next summer. But Lamb stresses that, because of England's Test commitments it is a case of can't, rather than won't.

"I think most people realise that 1998 is an extremely busy year for the England team who tour the West Indies, play South Africa and Sri Lanka at home and then go in October to Australia for a long Ashes tour," said Lamb.

"We said to the Commonwealth Games organisers that we wanted to send a top amateur team, especially as this would give a huge incentive to our best club players and would also fit in with the ECB's drive to increase the profile of the recreational game but the council has not agreed to our proposals.

"I also know that other Test-playing nations will not be sending their Test sides, even if some have said they will be sending their best available team."

It looks as if England will also be without a representative side in one of the other new one-off events in next year's Games - rugby. Apparently part of the reason is because the sport could not find two professional players willing to go on a pre-event fact-finding mission to Malaysia.

The rejections were revealed after the Games president Prince Edward had opened the General Assembly for the event next May. Ann Hogbin, general secretary of the Games Council for England, admitted it had left them reeling. "It came as a big shock," said Mrs Hogbin.

"We are extremely disappointed. We asked for two competitors to come from each sport for a 10-day seminar in Malaysia and although the RFU were very supportive of our programme, they told us they found it difficult finding two competitors for the trip.

"They also said the rugby calendar was too congested and they were cancelling all England appearances in Sevens competitions until after the 1999 World Cup."

Scotland have also opted out of the rugby competition, which includes South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Wales.

Snooker looks certain to be a medal sport at the 2002 Games after a motion was carried at the General Assembly. The world champion, Stephen Hendry, described it as "tremendous news for all cue sports".