England's plans to host the 2009 World Twenty20 could be under threat if the British government stops Zimbabwe cricketers from touring the country.
We haven't yet had to deal with a situation whereby a country isn't allowed by the host nation's government to take part in an ICC event
Zimbabwe's 2009 tour could be scrapped in protest at the regime of President Robert Mugabe.
But any directive to ban Zimbabwe may force the International Cricket Council to move the World Twenty20 event.
"It's a condition of hosting an ICC event that all member teams can play," ICC boss Malcolm Speed told BBC Sport.
"We (the ICC) haven't yet had to deal with a situation whereby a country isn't allowed by the host nation's government to take part in an ICC event.
"If that happens, the board would have to meet and take whatever action it deems necessary.
"However, at the moment all we have are media reports, so I would say that all this remains speculative. The board next meets in March so to suggest what action might be taken would be premature."
England were chosen as hosts of the 2009 World Twenty20 tournament in April 2006.
Downing Street has confirmed talks are planned over whether to ban Zimbabwe from England next year, with a spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown saying: "We'll need to discuss this nearer the time.
"A decision will have to be made about this at some point, but we are not at that point at the moment."
Should the ECB opt to scrap the three-match one-day series without a "clear government directive or instruction", that would be deemed "unacceptable" by the ICC board, says Speed.
The ECB would therefore be obliged to pay Zimbabwe $150,000 (£76,000) per match by way of compensation.
Zimbabwe were originally due to play two Tests along with the three one-dayers at the start of the 2009 English season.
But they have not played Test cricket since September 2005 and the ECB regards a one-day series as unviable.
Chairman Giles Clarke held talks with counterpart Peter Chingoka last month and said in a statement at the time: "These are the normal and regular conversations which take place between the boards in international cricket.
Zimbabwe's 2003 tour led to protests at Lord's
"The summer of 2009 is exciting for the ECB but it also has some logistical issues which need to be resolved."
The ECB declined to comment on any ongoing discussions with the government about the one-day series, but a spokesman indicated they were expecting Zimbabwe to take part in the World Twenty20.
"We are a member of the ICC, are hosting the tournament and it's been on the schedule for many, many months," media relations general manager Andrew Walpole told BBC Sport.
"It would be safe to assume that the fact that we bid for the tournament, which is an ICC event, means we will abide by any protocols set by the ICC."
Matches against Zimbabwe have been a thorny subject for the ECB over the past five years.
In 2003, placard-bearing protesters opposed to the regime of Mugabe managed to hold up a news conference at Lord's by gaining access to the ground.
And the ECB paid around £135,000 in March 2005 to resolve a year-long row over the cancellation of a Test tour to Zimbabwe the previous year.
Under previous Prime Minister Tony Blair the government stopped short of banning the England team from touring Zimbabwe or vice versa.
It would be safe to assume that the fact that we bid for the tournament means we will abide by any protocols set by the ICC
ECB media relations general manager Andrew Walpole
But Mr Brown signalled his intent to take a tougher line when he stayed away from last month's European Union-Africa summit in Portugal because Mugabe was attending.
Conservative foreign affairs spokesman David Lidington said it was right the government was prepared to take "serious steps" against Zimbabwe, though Ed Davey, for the Liberal Democrats, called on the prime minister to ensure England is not "punished financially for making the right choice".
The ECB faces a headache in 2009 as it needs to fit seven Test matches and 10 one-day internationals into the schedule, as well as the World Twenty20.
Five of those Tests and seven of the one-day matches are against Australia in the second half of the season.
If Zimbabwe were to visit to play only the three one-day games, a third side would have to be called in for the early-season Tests.