England face suspension from ICC over Zimbabwe boycott
England face a fine of at least US$2m, and could even be suspended from the International Cricket Council, if they fail to meet their obligations to tour Zimbabwe in October and November this year.
"Touring teams are expected to fulfil their touring obligations," Ehsan Mani, the president of the ICC, warned England's officials at the end of a two-day executive board meeting in Auckland. "Failure to do so would result in a fine of a minimum (£1.1m) and possible suspension from the ICC."
Mani insisted that the ICC's threat was not aimed specifically at the England & Wales Cricket Board, which has been agonising over the decision to tour. The ECB is expected to argue that the advice it has received from the British government is tantamount to an instruction to stay away, although the ICC does not consider this to be a firm order.
"The board has reaffirmed its policy that countries should not be drawn into making political decisions when assessing their future tour commitments," added Mani. "If a government takes this action, the decision will be accepted by the ICC and there will be no impact on the individual board."
For the Zimbabwe Cricket Union, the ICC's decision is a welcome development in their bid to persuade England to tour. "This new regulation sends a clear message ... to the ECB that it should honour its pledge to tour Zimbabwe later this year," said the ZCU chairman, Peter Chingoka. "The West Indies has visited our country in recent months, Bangladesh is currently on tour and both Sri Lanka and Australia have recently confirmed their intention to tour, as well as expressed their satisfaction with the safety and security measures we have put in place."
The ECB is not expected to make a final decision until April at the earliest.