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|England's Zimbabwe tour tops ICC agenda|
Friday, March 5 2004 13:28 Hrs (IST)
The two-day International Cricket Council (ICC) Board meeting in Auckland on March 9 and 10 will also look at the lingering problem of returning World Cup monies witheld from teams because of legal action arising from commercial disputes at last year's World Cup.
Also on the agenda is a proposal that the ICC should consider moving from its historic headquarters at London's Lord's Cricket Ground.
Following British Government pressure to call off October's tour in protest at the policies of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) produced a report in January saying moral concerns could form the basis for a withdrawal.
But the Government has stopped short of ordering the ECB to cancel the tour. Under ICC rules, barring a Goverment ban, the only other way for the ECB to withdraw without paying compensation is on security grounds.
England agreed in March last year to tour Zimbabwe in return for Zimbabwe touring England in 2003, having controversially withdrawn from a World Cup match in Harare on security grounds a month earlier.
ECB chairman David Morgan, who has been accused of going back on his word by Zimbabwe cricket boss Peter Chingoka, faces a hard task in trying to persuade fellow ICC Board members to reverse their policy.
And if England do pull out of Zimbabwe they could consequently lose their lucrative role as hosts of September's ICC Champions Trophy One-day tournament, a mini World Cup, and the three warm-up matches with India that accompany it.
ECB chief executive Tim Lamb told Thursday's edition of British broadsheet the Daily Telegraph that being stripped of host status could mean a loss of between "four and five million pounds (seven to nine million dollars), income we could not afford to lose."
Because of British tax laws, the ICC only have administrative headquarters at Lord's with their financial base in Monaco.
Dubai and Malaysia, which both offer tax exemptions, are among the favoured options to host the ICC in the event it moved away from Lord's, where the ECB are also based.
Moving to either place would take the ICC closer to India, one of the game's leading nations and its dominant commercial force, a switch that would go down well with many administrators who resent what they see as 'English arrogance' based on its cricket history not current achievements.
But a final decision may be postponed until the ICC annual meeting at Lord's in June.
Australia to go ahead with Zimbabwe tour