Thatscricket - News - ZCU chief Chingoka warns English Counties

Published: Tuesday, January 27, 2004, 22:12 [IST]
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London:Zimbabwean cricket chief Peter Chingoka has warned England's Counties that they will be left with a multi-million pound bill if the national team pulls out of a planned tour of the troubled African state.

In the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter row over whether or not the November tour should go ahead, Chingoka unleashed the financial equivalent of a bouncer to the throat of the 18 cash-strapped Counties.

In an e-mail addressed to their chief executives, the Zimbabwean Cricket Union (ZCU) chairman warned that English cricket would face a damages claim of "several millions of pounds," if the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) decide to pull out of the tour.

"The ECB has made no secret of the delicate nature of its finances," Chingoka wrote.

"As beneficiaries of substantial ECB grants you and your colleagues must judge whether the risk of further major financial penalties is an acceptable consequence," Chingoka wrote.

The ECB on Monday put off until the end of next month a decision on whether the tour will go ahead, although a meeting of its management board is due to discuss the issue on Thursday.

The delay follows discussions with the British Government, which has strongly advised against touring Zimbabwe in light of the abuses perpetrated by President Robert Mugabe's regime.

Crucially however, the Government stopped short of ordering the ECB to cancel the tour in the way that India banned bilateral tours of Pakistan for over a decade.

Under the rules of cricket's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), the only other grounds on which the ECB could withdraw without paying compensation is security, which is not a particular concern in Zimbabwe.

England agreed in March last year to tour Zimbabwe in return for Zimbabwe touring England in 2003.

"Having given a guarantee to tour, the ZCU finds it deeply offensive that the ECB are now considering reneging on this agreement without the courtesy of being given notice or consulted in any way whatsoever," Chingoka wrote in his message to the County chiefs.

ECB chief executive Tim Lamb has admitted that England are more than just honour-bound to proceed with the tour.

"There is an exchange of letters which I think a lawyer would certainly say is a legally binding commitment," he said on Monday.

An internal ECB report designed to lay down the basis for the ECB to make its decision on whether to tour concluded that withdrawal on moral or political grounds could be justified.

Chingoka warned that a boycott on 'moral' grounds would only serve to restrict the development of cricket among Zimbabwe's black community.

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