Cricket must 'show moral backbone', says Hain

Ben Russell,Political Correspondent
Monday 06 January 2003 01:00

Peter Hain told England's cricketers yesterday to "show some moral backbone" and boycott World Cup matches in Zimbabwe rather than hand a "propaganda coup" to Robert Mugabe's regime.

He called on the International Cricket Council to move the controversial matches from Zimbabwe to South Africa in a series of interviews for The Independent on Sunday.

He wrote: "If Mugabe gets his way and the event proceeds, England should not go. But if their international sister organisations will not stand up for morality against oppression, if other governments will not back our own Government's stand, then it is still important for English cricket to show some moral backbone."

Mr Hain told the BBC: "The idea that cricketers or cricket officials are absolved from moral decisions simply seems to me to be wrong. We all have to take moral decisions in the jobs that we do."

David Morgan, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), said: "The probability is that the fixture will be fulfilled. The ECB has great sympathy for the people of Zimbabwe and their current plight but the consequences of England, and possibly other countries, not fulfilling their fixtures are immense for cricket.

"We have to question why there has been no break in diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe and why there have been no other sanctions against them," he said.

"Why should the ECB be the only business required to stop trading with Zimbabwe?"

Senior figures from the ECB will meet Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, on Thursday for talks on the tour.

¿ Thirty-four people were arrested when riot police fired tear gas in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, after a mob tried to storm a grain depot in the first serious violence since food shortages worsened.

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