London: The British government signalled on Tuesday that it would not compensate English cricket's governing body for any losses incurred in the event of a decision not to play its World Cup match in Zimbabwe. The government has put the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) under intense pressure to pull out of a match scheduled to take place in Harare on February 13, arguing that to go ahead would be tantamount to endorsing the regime of President Robert Mugabe.
The ECB has said it wants assurances that it will be compensated if it goes along with the government's wishes and suffers financial losses as a result. But that idea was rejected by Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien. "I do not think the British taxpayer would want to stump up public money to an independent sporting organisation," he told the BBC.
"They have made decisions, entered into contracts, I think they should be responsible for those decisions. There is a level of responsibility on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), it is not on the taxpayer." If it were to withdraw the England team, the ECB could face penalties from the International Cricket Council (ICC) for breach of sanctions. The ICC has already ruled that there is no reason why the six World Cup games scheduled for Zimbabwe - most of the tournament will be in South Africa - should not go ahead there.
Any team deciding not to play matches in Zimbabwe will forfeit points, the ICC has said. The ECB also has to consider the possibility of Mugabe retaliating for any boycott by ordering Zimbabwe to pull out of its planned summer tour of England. That could cost English cricket in excess of 10 million Pounds.