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Rediff.com  » Cricket » England team ordered not to fly to Zimbabwe

England team ordered not to fly to Zimbabwe

November 25, 2004 10:57 IST

England were ordered to stay in South Africa rather than fly to Zimbabwe on Wednesday after the Harare government barred most British media from covering a five-match cricket tour.

In London, the British Foreign Office summoned the Zimbabwean charge d'affaires to express its "deep concern" that the Harare government had denied access to British journalists.

Team spokesman Andrew Walpole told reporters that England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman David Morgan had instructed the team to stay in Johannesburg "pending further discussions with the Zimbabwean authorities".

Morgan, who is in Zimbabwe, said later: "We are pleased to have had the assistance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and also the British ambassador in Harare.

"We are also satisfied that the International Cricket Council are taking the issue seriously and have a clear understanding of the ECB's position on the matter.

"I have instructed the England team to remain in Johannesburg while discussions are on-going and we will re-evaluate our position when I have heard back from ICC and the various authorities here in Harare tomorrow."

The ICC said it was continuing to monitor developments. President Ehsan Mani said: "There are serious concerns about the issue of media accreditation but until further information is available it is difficult to effectively address the issue.

"As well as urgently seeking a solution from within Zimbabwe, I am in the process of speaking to the other directors of the ICC to determine their views on this issue."

AIRPORT MEETING

At a stopover at Johannesburg airport, England coach Duncan Fletcher and captain Michael Vaughan met Richard Bevan, chief executive of England's Professional Cricketers' Association.

The first of the five one-day internationals is due to be played in Harare on Friday.

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The majority of British media organisations hoping to cover the tour, including the BBC, were told on Tuesday they had been denied accreditation by the Harare government.

Applications by other organisations including Reuters appear to have been successful.

Earlier, England asked the chief executive of the ICC whether Zimbabwe's decision to bar the media gave the ECB grounds to cancel the tour.

"The acting chief executive of the ECB, Hugh Morris, has e-mailed ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed and asked if the Zimbabwe government's action constitutes an acceptable reason for non-compliance with the tour," Walpole said.

Speed is in Asia and has so far made no response to the ECB request. However, ICC president Mani said: "We are trying very hard to have this decision (by Zimbabwe) reversed.

"Now is not the time to call it (the tour) off, it's the time to put the journalists into the country."

England played warm-up games in Namibia before leaving to fly via Johannesburg to Harare.

Under the ICC's Future Tours Programme, tours can only be cancelled on the advice of a government or because of overriding security and safety worries.

POSSIBLE FINE

The ECB could risk a $2 million ICC fine and suspension from the international game if England pull out for any other reason.

Last year, England pulled out of a World Cup one-day match in Zimbabwe, citing security concerns.

The British government had said it cannot instruct the ECB to cancel the tour. Sports minister Richard Caborn repeated on Wednesday: "We haven't got the power to intervene."

Later in the day Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane called in a Zimbabwean senior diplomat and said British diplomats were trying to have the media ban overturned.

"Our embassy in Harare is also making representations. The England and Wales Cricket Board has been in discussions with the Zimbabwean authorities, including the Zimbabwe Cricket Union. We are in contact with the ECB and support these efforts."

Players who decided not to continue with the Zimbabwe tour would not face sanctions from the ICC, Morgan said.

Top strike bowler Steve Harmison boycotted the tour before the squad was announced and several players, including captain Vaughan, have aired reservations.

Zimbabwe Cricket said it could not comment on why its government had turned down certain media applications.

(Additional reporting by Stella Mapenzauswa in Harare)

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