London: Pop star turned charity fundraiser Bob Geldof is behind an attempt to get England out of its controversial World Cup match in Zimbabwe.
Geldof and a human rights organisation, the Aegis Trust, are attempting to raise the one million Pounds ($ 1.64 million) via public phone donation they say would cover the financial penalties England would face if it boycotted its Harare match on February 13. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has led calls for England to pull out of Zimbabwe in protest at the human rights abuses of President Robert Mugabe.
Geldof, who shot to global fame as the organiser of the Band Aid concerts and record, which raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia back in 1985, said England had a moral duty to withdraw from Zimbabwe: "On a day in which perhaps thousands will die of state-sponsored famine, the English nation as represented by its cricket team will be guests of its perpetrator, Robert Mugabe," the Irishman told on Tuesday's 'London Evening Standard'. "Against these facts a game of cricket is wholly absurd. We must withdraw.
I wholly endorse this appeal for you to pick up the telephone and buy this game off," the former lead singer of the Boomtown Rats insisted. On Monday, England's players insisted they wanted the fixture moved to South Africa where the bulk of the February 8 - March 23 tournament's 54 fixtures are taking place. But the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) continued to back the position of the global governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC) that all six World Cup matches scheduled to take place in Zimbabwe should go ahead as long as players' safety can be assured.
Despite Blair's call for England to pull out, the British government has steadfastly refused to offer its cricket authorities any financial compensation in the event of a withdrawal. But one million Pounds alone may not be enough to persuade the ECB to change course. On Monday, ECB chief executive Tim Lamb said boycotting the match in Zimbabwe could cost the Board between $ 3 to 4 million (1.82 to 2.44 million Pounds). And a Mugabe-inspired retaliatory cancellation of Zimbabwe's post-World Cup tour of England could, according to Lamb, lead to a loss of $ 16.4 million (10 million Pounds). However, Lamb also indicated on Monday that the ECB would be pressing to have England's match mo
ved to South Africa when the ICC's executive board discussed the issue at a teleconference meeting later this week.