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January 3, 2008
An article in The Sun 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."
Under Tony Blair, the ECB was encouraged not to play against Zimbabwe but his government refused to go any further, leaving the board with the choice between carrying on or boycotting games and facing massive fines from the ICC. Gordon Brown has shown a firmer approach, staying away from a summit in Portugal because Mugabe had been invited to attend.
"England's cricket authorities wanted assurances from us about what to do," the government source added, "and now they have it."
A spokesman for Gordon Brown confirmed that the government will hold talks with the cricket authorities on a possible ban, but said it was too early for any decision. "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."
New Zealand's government banned the Zimbabwe side from entering the country in 2006, leading to the cancellation of their tour, and in May 2007 John Howard, the then Australian prime minister, ordered the Australian board not to fulfil a tour to Zimbabwe.
While few will shed tears over Zimbabwe not playing a series in England, there are greater possible ramifications as in June 2009 the ICC World Twenty20 is scheduled to be held in the country. It seems unlikely that the ICC would allow a tournament to go ahead when one of its Full Members is barred from participating, and so it is possible that the event might be moved elsewhere. The financial implications for the ECB were that to happen would be far more devastating that any ICC fines.
An ECB spokesman declined to comment on what he said was a "speculative story based on insider quotes".
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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