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Zimbabwe could be barred from UK
04 Jan 2008
By: Richard Dickinson

The British government appears to be planning to ban Zimbabwe's cricket team from touring England in the summer of 2009. Rows have been commonplace in the country, both in parliament and amongst the public, since the World Cup match in 2002\03 (eventually cancelled), about the England team's involvement with Zimbabwe?s.

Under Tony Blair, the Labour government always took the stance that they could not order the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to keep away from tours to Zimbabwe or reciprocal visits, but always stated their preference sporting interaction to be avoided. Gordon Brown, however, has already taken a harder line regarding the country, refusing to attend a summit in Portugal specifically because Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was invited.

Now, The Sun newspaper quotes a government source as saying: "We can't pretend it's not a matter for the government any more. It's quite clearly our job to stand up and be counted. Mugabe needs to be given clear signals from all quarters that his regime is unacceptable."

"England's cricket authorities wanted assurances from us about what to do," the source added, "and now they have it."

A personal spokesman for the Prime Minister insisted no decision had yet been made: "I think that it's very early to be making these sorts of decisions. We obviously will need to discuss this with the ECB closer to the time. A decision will have to be made about this at some point but we are not at that point at the moment."

Parliamentary instructions of the type are not without precedent: New Zealand and Australia's governments have both barred Zimbabwe from touring their countries in the recent past.

The ICC have set tough precedents for countries who refuse to participate in tours involving Zimbabwe, unless there has been direct government instruction not to do so. The scheduled 2009 tour's cancellation would disappoint few. One concern to the ECB, however, might be that the next Twenty20 World tournament is scheduled for later in the summer of 2009, and if one of its Full Member countries were to be refused admittance ICC could potentially consider relocating the tournament. This would be disastrous for the English game.

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