England cancel Zimbabwe tour
The ECB has cancelled next summer's tour by Zimbabwe and suspended all bilateral arrangements with the Zimbabwe board.
The news came minutes after Gordon Brown, the prime minister, told the House of Commons that he wanted the tour scrapped. "We want to ensure that Zimbabwe does not tour England next year and we will call for other countries to join us in banning Zimbabwe from the Twenty20 international tournament," he said.
In a short statement, Colin Gibson, the ECB's head of corporate communications, said: "The ECB deplores the position in Zimbabwe and, like Cricket South Africa, finds this untenable. Therefore all bilateral arrangements are suspended with Zimbabwe Cricket with immediate effect.
"The government has written to the ECB today and has made a clear instruction that Zimbabwe's bilateral tour scheduled under the ICC Future Tours Programme for 2009 should be cancelled.
"The ECB, which has been in constructive and extensive dialogue with the department for culture, media and sport for some time, welcome the government's decision and share the government's concerns about the deteriorating situation and lack of human rights in Zimbabwe."
Andy Burnham, the culture, media and sport secretary, told the ECB the government had "concluded that it would not be right to allow the proposed tour [to England] by Zimbabwe Cricket in 2009 to take place. The government has previously called on the ICC to reconsider its rules to allow teams to forfeit tours to countries, such as Zimbabwe, where serious human rights abuses are occurring. Unfortunately the ICC has declined to do so. Therefore, the government has decided to make it clear that it will take all necessary steps to prevent players from Zimbabwe from participating in that tour."
The ECB is now looking at identifying a replacement for the tour, which is scheduled to take place before the ICC World Twenty20 next June. "It's a great relief in many ways," said England's one-day captain, Paul Collingwood. "It's been going on since 2001, since I've been playing cricket [for England] and it's good that it's been taken out of our hands."