LONDON: English cricket officials appeared set Thursday to defy the British government and go ahead with their World Cup game in Zimbabwe.
England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive Tim Lamb said as the government refused to pay compensation if England boycotted Zimbabwe then they had little option but to go ahead with their match in Harare on February 13.
However, he told reporters they could reverse the decision if there were more riots in Zimbabwe.
“If there is a detoriation in the security situation the decision to play in Zimbabwe could be reviewed,” he said after meeting government ministers. “We need to have a fairly urgent meeting of the management board. It will be up to them to decide where we go from here.”
British premier Tony Blair has called on England to pull out of their match but sports secretary Tessa Jowell told the ECB Thursday the Government would pay no cash compensation if England boycotted their match in Zimbabwe.
Lamb said England would face a multi-million pound legal claim if they did not go ahead with their game.
“We’ve been put in a very difficult situation,” he said.
“We find this a very inequitable situation. Cricket is being asked to make a stand in the national interest. We have signed legal contracts ... and if we breach those contracts that could have a severe detrimental effect to the fabric of the game (in England).
“My job is to look after the interests of cricket. We could render ourselves liable to unlimited damages.
“We are disappointed certainly at this initial meeting that no compensation will be paid,” he said. “We may ask for another meeting.”
The ECB are also worried by the financial implications of Zimbabwe withdrawing from their two Test tour of England in the next northern summer in retaliation against a World Cup boycott.
Zimbabwe is due to host six out of a total of 54 World Cup matches with Nambia, Australia, India, Pakistan and Holland also due to play the co-hosts there.
The Australian and New Zealand governments have joined with their British counterparts in calling for a boycott of World Cup matches in Zimbabwe.
But they too have said the ultimate decision rests with their respective cricket authorities.
However, there has been no such pressure on India and Pakistan who have said they had no problems playing in Zimbabwe.
The bulk of World Cup matches in the February 8 - March 23 tournament are being staged in South Africa. – AFP
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