ICC rejects England's shift plea after 4-hour

Published: Friday, February 7, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Cape Town: England's bid to have its February 13 World Cup match against Zimbabwe in Harare moved to South Africa on safety grounds was rejected by the tournament's technical committee here Thursday. But despite a four-hour marathon meeting, attended by both England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tim Lamb and Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) president Peter Chingoka and their legal advisors, the committee's decision may still not be the end of the matter. England can appeal against the decision to two of the independent commissioners, Justice Albie Sachs of South Africa or Justice Richard Otieno Kwach of Kenya, sitting alone. The third commissioner, Justice Ahmed Ebrahim of Zimbabwe, a former International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee, will not be called upon because his country is involved in the dispute. The commissioner's verdict is final. ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed has said matches can be moved as late as four days in advance of their scheduled date.

"It was the unanimous view that the request of the ECB to shift the match out of Zimbabwe be declined. We've done the best we can. If it conflicts with the team, then we are disappointed about that," Speed told reporters after the meeting. Speed said that the ECB's case ran to 150 pages of documents based on various events in recent weeks in Zimbabwe including reports of the death of a man, who had been tortured for protesting World Cup fixtures, concerns over future violence and the worsening economic conditions in the country.

"Some of the material presented to us was unclear and, in some cases, unreliable," Speed said. "The ICC reiterates its concern for the safety and security of the England team. An invitation was extended to any team to meet with the ICC security experts to discuss their concerns and the ECB has accepted that invitation and that will take place tomorrow." In the event of a continued stalemate, the ICC would respect Zimbabwe's stance and, in that event, England would be docked World Cup points and fined. The tournament sponsors could also submit a compensation claim against England for unilaterally causing the abandonment of one of the event's 54 matches.

Five of the six event technical committee members were at the meeting - Speed, World Cup executive director Ali Bacher, ICC commercial manager Campbell Jamieson, United Cricket Board of South Africa operations manager Brian Basson and former India player Sunil Gavaskar. The sixth member, former West Indies player, Michael Holding, was still on his way to South Africa. In his absence, the remaining committee members, who were advised by their own legal representatives, heard from the tournament's own security directorate and American security firm Kroll, who were commissioned by the ICC to produce a report into Kenya and Zimbabwe's safety status.

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