ICC mulls moving away from Lords premises

Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2004, 16:41 [IST]
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London:Lord's, the traditional home of cricket, appears set to lose one of its long-standing tenants for tax reasons with the International Cricket Council considering a new permanent base.

Global cricket has been run from the London suburb of St John's Wood since 1909 but a failure by the British government to meet their apparent promise of tax concessions on annual income is almost certain to lead to a relocation, with Dubai favourite.

However shadow sports minister Hugh Robertson has backed the campaign originally led by the Marylebone Cricket Club and UK Sport to retain cricket's central office in the capital by writing to chancellor Gordon Brown imploring him to reconsider.

"Britain has lost a number of international sports headquarters in recent years and it would be another severe blow to our reputation as a major sporting capital to lose cricket as well," Robertson said.

"We agree with UK Sport that the Government should do everything possible to retain the ICC headquarters in London."

The defection of another major sporting body following that of rugby union and athletics, Robertson argued, would also be detrimental to London's 2012 Olympic bid.

As well as being the home of English cricket, Lord's is synonymous with the history of the game by virtue of housing the MCC, who have responsibility for the laws of the game, and the world scene through the presence of the ICC.

But that could change within days with the ICC's board due to discuss their options - and any move could be hurried through by April, in line with the new tax year.

In his correspondence, Robertson wrote: "I am told that the key issue is the ICC's corporation tax status. Given that they are not a commercial entity, have no shareholders or make a profit and exist to promote the game around the world (including, of course, in Africa which has always been one of your personal priorities), I am surprised that this is the case, " he said.

"However, I very much hope that you will be able to take the necessary action to ensure that the ICC headquarters remain in London."

Six other site options were discussed in June at the ICC's annual general meeting but on the eve of the vote UK Sport, at the MCC's behest, intervened with a letter that stated the government would be prepared to grant concessions.

However, when the budget statement was made 10 days ago, these were not mentioned and UK Sport subsequently wrote to the ICC to apologise after certain cabinet members objected to granting special status.

Tax reasons led the ICC to shift their financial and commercial arm to Monte Carlo some time ago and a new headquarters would provide the chance to combine that side of the business and the administration side under one roof.

Dubai's offer of tax exemption makes it an attractive option and the logistics of such a move would be favourable following the recent announcement that a global academy is to be based there.

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