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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 11:24 GMT
England put on boycott alert
Tim Lamb, John Read and Michael Soper
ECB officials arrive for talks with the government
Tim Lamb has given a stark warning of potentially devastating consequences for English cricket which could follow a refusal to play in Zimbabwe during the World Cup.

The England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive said first-class and schools cricket, plus other development initiatives, could all suffer if a boycott of Zimbabwe goes ahead.

The ECB could face a multi-million pound fine from the International Cricket Council if the England team does not fulfil the fixture in Harare on 13 February.

Only at the 59th minute of the 11th hour did the government make their concerns clear

Tim Lamb

But the government has made it clear it will not provide compensation for any such fine.

An emergency meeting of the ECB management board is now likely to be convened for next week to discuss the matter further.

Lamb, director of corporate affairs John Read and vice-chairman Mike Soper met government ministers for talks on Thursday.

"In these situations, it's often the development side of things, grass roots cricket, all the money we're putting into women and girls cricket, all the development activities that we've been engaged in since the formation of the ECB six years ago, these are the areas that are likely to suffer.

ECB management board
David Morgan, ECB chairman
David Acfield
Dennis Amiss
Rod Bransgrove
Steve Coverdale
David East
Peter Gooden
Martin Gray
Bob Jackson
Roger Knight
Roger Moylan Jones
John Pickup
Mike Soper
David Stewart

"What we said to government was that we would like them to think long and hard about whether they were prepared to see the fabric of cricket in England and Wales being jeopardised in this way," Lamb commented.

"We'll need to report that back to our management board - the board of directors of the ECB - and it remains to be seen whether there is any possible room for manouevre on the part of government."

As well as a fine, England would also forfeit the points for the game in Zimbabwe, which could ultimately result in the team's early elimination from the tournament.

It could also lead to Zimbabwe taking reciprocal action in cancelling their tour to England later this year.

Lamb reiterated his belief that it was not the job of sports administrators to take moral stands against overseas governments.

"If we suffer a multi million pound loss as a result of failing to honour our obligations to play in the World Cup, that could have a lasting detrimental effect on cricket in this country.

"I'm sorry if people think that's not sufficiently moral, but my job, as I'm sure people will understand, as the chief executive of the ECB is to look after the interests of cricket."

 ECB chief Tim Lamb
"We've been put in a very difficult position"
 Former England batsman Allan Lamb
"If you go there, you are supporting Robert Mugabe"
 Dutch cricket chief Rene Irschot
"We just want to play cricket"
Calls grow for World Cup matches in Zimbabwe to be boycotted

Zimbabwe decision


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