England-Zimbabwe tour set to go ahead

Published: Friday, May 7, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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London:England's tour of Zimbabwe is set to go ahead after the British Government reiterated that it could not force cricket chiefs to pull out.

Speaking after talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Thursday: "We would prefer the tour to be postponed until the situation in Zimbabwe improves.

"But it is the sporting authorities who make the decision in situations such as this.

"If cricket were to be damaged by decisions taken by the authorities - the only people to celebrate would be Robert Mugabe and his regime."

Straw's comments echoed the stance taken by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and leave the ECB with no option but to proceed with the tour.

Under new rules adopted by the International Cricket Council earlier this year, England could could face a one-year suspension from international cricket and a two-million-dollar fine if they decide not to honour a commitment to tour Zimbabwe. That would effectively bankrupt the English game.

The ECB could have escaped sanctions if the government had explicitly ordered them not to tour - a move which would be untenable as Britain has not made any attempt to restrict business contacts or trade with Zimbabwe.

The only other exception to the rule is if there are genuine security concerns recognised by the ICC. That is not the case in Zimbabwe, where Sri Lanka are currently on tour and where the Australians are due to arrive later in the month.

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