London: England's players' union branded 'unacceptable' on Saturday the refusal of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to give it a copy of the controversial report which says it is safe for World Cup matches in Zimbabwe and Kenya to go ahead. England's Professional Cricketers' Association (EPCA) also said it had been contacted by a member of the media who had seen the report and that this had led to serious concerns.
England players want their World Cup opener against Zimbabwe in Harare on February 13 moved on safety and moral grounds to main tournament hosts South Africa, where the bulk of the event's 54 matches are taking place. But on Thursday the ICC, following its second executive board teleconference in as many weeks, said it was safe for the two matches in Kenya and the six fixtures in famine-threatened Zimbabwe to proceed as scheduled. The ICC set great store by a report it commissioned from American security firm Kroll which concluded the matches could take place. However, this has not convinced New Zealand cricket chiefs who are still refusing to let the team travel to Nairobi for their match against Kenya on February 21.
On Saturday, senior figures from England's Professional Cricketers' Association (EPCA), including chief executive David Graveney, also England's chairman of selectors and managing director Richard Bevan, the England team representative, took part in a teleconference to discuss the Zimbabwe issue. Also involved were England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman David Morgan and the team's lawyer Gerrard Tyrrell. In a statement, the PCA said, "The PCA were informed by the ICC via Tim Lamb (ECB chief executive) on Friday that the Kroll Report (an independent risk assessment report commissioned by the ICC) would not be made available for the player representatives. "However, a meeting would be arranged if requested between the authors of the report and the player representatives in Cape Town, South Africa, at the end of next week.
"This is an unacceptable position. The PCA have been contacted by a member of the media who has had access to the Kroll Report which has led to serious concerns. "Without doubt there is an element of risk as the Kroll Report said: 'Extensive disruptions of the matches are planned by elements in the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) party'. "There are serious safety and security issues regarding the media, supporters and citizens of Zimbabwe, as well as the players, during the time that the England team will be in Harare," the PCA said.
"In order to understand the conclusion you must have access to the full report. The PCA have made a second request for the Kroll report to David Morgan, who will be discussing this with the ICC next week. "It is extremely surprising the ICC have taken this approach with the Kroll report, considering they have used it to further support their views on the scheduled matches in Zimbabwe going ahead. "The ICC must also recognise the relationship between Britain and Zimbabwe is a special situation. This is confirmed by a quote from President Mugabe, 'Britain is the sworn enemy of Zimbabwe'.
The PCA said Tyrrell would be communicating the PCA's concerns to the ECB's management board meeting on Monday. It also said Bevan had asked for a letter from the ECB's insurers confirming there were no problems insuring the team while it was in Zimbabwe. Bevan will now fly out Monday to South Africa, where the England team is currently based. Britain was once the ruling colonial power in what was then Rhodesia before Zimbabwe was created as an independent nation in 1980. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been one of the severest critics of Mugabe's regime and the alleged human rights abuses it has carried out. On Thursday ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed re-iterated matches in the February 8 to March 23 World Cup could be moved as late as four days in advance.