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 Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 15:09 GMT
Right to play in Zimbabwe?
Angry protesters infiltrated Lord's to condemn the ECB's decision
The English Cricket Board announces that England's controversial World Cup match in Zimbabwe will go ahead.

Do you support the decision?

Have your say

The ECB claim they cannot afford to boycott the match as the England team would stand to lose up to 11m in revenue.

But the protestors who infiltrated Lord's on Tuesday echoed the view of many; that it would be morally wrong for the contest to take place.

Violence in Zimbabwe has also escalated in recent weeks, raising safety concerns for both England players and fans.

So is the ECB right to ignore boycott calls? And will you support England when they play in Zimbabwe?

Have your say


Cricketers are selected to play cricket for their country, not to back up or criticise government actions. Government will advise cricket boards on whether actions should be taken, but the actual decision rests with the Board.
John Marshall, Australia+

The distinct smell of a financial loss clearly does not appeal to the ECB. If the England cricket team does or does not go - so what. By the team going or not going will not help the people of Zimbabwe.

That was the job of our government and they failed.
Ady, UK

I think no one should play cricket or any sport in Zimbabwe, but then a decision like that requires some kind of political backing, which this hypocritical government is not willing to give.

They have a problem with Mugabe's rule and human rights violations, yet their priority is regime change in Iraq! They don't want cricketers to go to Zimbabwe, yet they have not asked British Airways to stop flying or businesses to stop operating there.

So on what grounds is this government asking the cricketers to take a moral stance on playing cricket in Zimbabwe, it's their livelihood. I did not want the English team to play in Zimbabwe, but now I feel they must unless there are serious security concerns. And the ECB needs to think about that, because the ICC will not.
Shalini, UK

Sport is sport, politics is politics, that's the bottom line

Richard Johnson, UK

The blame begins and ends with the ICC, who have had ages to move the matches in question to SA but have done nothing. I have lost respect for them because of this incompetence.

Whether the matches go ahead or not (and they should not, for safety reasons if nothing else), I am saddened at the prospect of people's blood being spilt over something that can be easily solved. THE ICC MUST ACT NOW while there is still some time. 24 days and counting.
Milan, UK

Sport is sport, politics is politics. That's the bottom line. It is not the job of a national team to make grand gestures to give their government kudos.

Our team is there for the World Cup and nothing else, they have made it clear that they are in no way vindicating Mugabe's regime. Let's just view it as it is, a cricket match.
Chris M, Bristol, England

I dislike hearing the level of criticism that has been directed at the ECB for this decision. In practice, whether the ECB goes or does not go to Zimbabwe will make no difference to the situation there.

However, there are organisations who could make a difference in Zimbabwe. These include our own government but, more particularly, the Commonwealth and other African nations have it within their power to actually help change things in Zimbabwe.

I am disturbed that these bodies receive little or no criticism for their relative inaction whereas the cricket team are castigated in the press. What is going on?
Richard Johnson, UK

Cricket, like any other sport, is a symbol of good will. However, the spirit of opposition in sport is synonymous with war and where there is war there is politics (a position I stand to be corrected on though). Who knows, perhaps the game in Zimbabwe will play a better role in solving the current political impasse?
Fred, Zimbabwe

It is indeed very sad that the ECB has shirked its responsibility to the people of Zimbabwe in this matter

James Bright, Dallas, Texas, USA

The ECB shouldn't have to take a 10m hit that would jeopardise the future of the sport in this country. The government should be ashamed of themselves for not putting their money where their mouth is. So much for an ethical foreign policy!
Austin, UK

It's a bit unfair for people to compare the Zimbabwe situation with South Africa 20 years ago. Then, businesses all pulled out as well as the sportsmen giving a much clearer statement to the South African regime, that's not happening this time.

We shouldn't go because it's unsafe, not because of any other reason. In cricketing terms, all we are doing is gifting other teams points because everyone scheduled to play (Australia & Netherlands I think) will play regardless. Are the Aussie and Dutch press and governments giving their teams such a hard time?
James Atkinson, UK

I strongly feel England should try and maximise the number of matches they play in the first round, even if that means playing against Iraq (if they ever had a team). Because given the current state of the English cricket team, first round matches seem to be the only World Cup matches the English fans would get to watch their team play in, for the next four years.
Faraz Khan, London, UK

It appears astonishing that the cricket players are happy to call "well played" in a country where a large section of the population is being systematically starved by the regime because it did not play ball with Mugabe during the election.

I, for one, will not be following the team's progress during the tour.
Christopher Dumbleton, UK

Boycotting was effective against South Africa's apartheid regime so why on earth are we even considering sending our players to Zimbabwe? No matter what the ECB says, this will be used as a marketing tool for Mugabe's brutal regime. Why can't they show some moral fibre and stop worrying about money?
Matt Rudd, UK

I am happy with the ECB's decision. I reckon Nasser's men should play in Zimbabwe because if we pull out they may not want to come over in the summer.
Anon, New York, USA

Sport is sport. Politics is politics. The two should never mix

Subo, Cambridge, UK

It is indeed very sad that the ECB has shirked its responsibility to the people of Zimbabwe in this matter. It is only through such boycotts that continued international pressure can be brought upon the ruthless regime of Mugabe.

Without these types of boycotts, both social and economic, the racist regime of Apartheid would still be intact in South Africa. Or maybe the ECB would still be supporting that?
James Bright, Dallas, Texas, USA

It's just not cricket. The game of fair play is more worried about money than morality. It wants to separate politics from the game. Sadly, it is making a huge statement of its politics because sports players boycotted South Africa in the Apartheid era, and now the ECB is giving the message that the Zimbabwe regime is better than Apartheid, and money is the only consideration.
Peter Bricknell, England

Any misguided individual who thinks you can divorce sport from politics is living in a bubble. Mugabe will make political capital out of the World Cup in much the same way as Hitler did from the 1936 Olympics. It's not an adequate excuse to say that the Government should have made the decision; you don't have to be in politics to understand that some principles are more important than knocking a ball around.
Geoffrey Pimm, UK

Everybody is saying that we should not be playing in Zimbabwe and that the government is putting pressure on The ECB not to play, but why don't they do something about it and kick Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth? Instead of spending all their time and effort and taxpayers money playing puppet to George Bush and America over Iraq!
Rob Hodson, England

Sport is sport. Politics is politics. The two should never mix. What use would England withdrawing have been, when every other test-playing nation would have gone to Zimbabwe anyway? Action against a deplorable regime should be the job of the government, not the cricket team.
Subo, Cambridge, UK

Good luck to Nasser's boys!

Geraint Roberts, UK
Why should Nasser and the team have to suffer (i.e. forfeit the match) when Blair has done virtually nothing regarding the Zimbabwe situation, we don't even have a trade boycott! When you've done everything in your power Tony then start making requests to others as you are the Prime Minister, Nasser is merely the England cricket captain. Also the publicity surrounding the game will be bad for Mugabe as there will be prime time footage of the problems in all the news bulletins.
Jamie, UK

Don't go, if you have any principles stand by them. Nasser Hussain's reaction was pathetic if he doesn't know what is going on there he should bloody well find out. These days' people seem exclusively attracted to money and selfish motives. As for the government their reaction is exactly what we have come to expect, they aren't politicians they are more like "D" list celebrities with no vision or direction. Someone show some elements of leadership please.
Jill Bone, England

Yes we should back the team, it's a disgrace the way the government has tried to use moral blackmail and then ignored the potential financial suicide that it would create in the sport. The way of showing their contempt for the Zimbabwean government is ignore Mugabe, hold your heads high and destroy the opposition. Good luck to Nasser's boys!
Geraint Roberts, UK

Having been born in and lived in the "Rhodesias" I feel a great sadness about what is happening in the region. It is a humanitarian issue - and goes beyond simple politics.

This is why the English cricket team should not be persuaded by any political pressures, but simply by their own individual consciences. To lend any kind of international credibility to Zimbabwe's state machinery is immoral and unethical.

Each cricketer should base his decision to play there not on what others may or may not believe to be correct, but on how he feels his decision will reflect on his own moral and ethical standards.
Grahame Palmer, Britain

Ali USA says "Let sanctions be sanctions". There are no sanctions! The UK still trade with Zimbabwe, so why should the cricket team be a special case? The ICC should never have let the matches be played there, but England making a stand now will do nothing.
Rob, UK

The ECB decision is the right one. It has nothing whatsoever to do with politics. Why on earth should professional sportsmen be asked to sacrifice personal income and sporting achievement to satisfy a UK government without the backbone to impose trading sanctions on the corrupt Zimbabwe regime or to expel them from the Commonwealth? I hope Blair and Hain feel utterly embarrassed tonight.
James Scott, UK

And if Iraq played cricket? How wayward and dictatorial does the government of a country have to be before we stop playing the virtuous game of cricket there?
Will, Canada

The government have asked the cricketers to make a stand they are not prepared to make themselves

Sean Donnellan, London

I don't see how the British government or the British people can object to England playing cricket in Zimbabwe. Do we really expect that the ECB should take the lead against Zimbabwe, when the government refuses to?

Political and economic sanctions should be introduced before we can ask our cricket team to boycott the match, especially if no financial compensation is on offer.
Luke, UK

I definitely think that the fans should stay away. The leadership shown not only by the ECB but also Westminster is nothing short of gutless and pathetic.

I think that individual players also need to look at themselves and maybe take a stand individually and collectively to stay away from Zimbabwe. Hope that the members of the ECB will sleep well on this cop out!!!
Nigel Phillips, Wales

I initially believed that the cricket team should not play in Zimbabwe. However, the ECB have highlighted a lack in consistency in government policy towards the regime.

It is up to the government to enforce a more uniform trade/sporting sanctions policy if that's what they want.

OK go and play, it might draw the world's attention back to how badly Mugabe is treating his people.
Dave Hansen, England

I feel that the comments (unreported here) made by the ECB in the full eight-minute statement raise some important issues.

The ECB were in the unique position of being asked to not play these matches, and leave themselves liable for unlimited financial damages.

There are 300 UK companies operating in Zimbabwe and 2 British Airways flights per week.

There are no political, financial or economic sanctions indicating Zimbabwe's position in the world, and they are still a full member of the Commonwealth (their sportsmen and women were represented last year in Manchester in the Commonwealth Games).

The government have asked the cricketers to make a stand they are not prepared to make themselves. It may not be the right decision, but it was the only one they could make.

If the government ask a company to break a contract for the moral stance of the nation, they should be responsible for financing this from the public purse.

If Nasser Hussain takes a lead himself by refusing to play in Zimbabwe, he will have shown Tony Blair a thing or two about leadership

John, UK

The government cannot ask individuals to make a stance they will not back, or financially support, so the game must go ahead.

The only hope for this government is that the ICC thinks it's too dangerous, and moves the games on the basis of safety.
Sean Donnellan, London, UK

Fans should certainly boycott the match. The ECB were put in a very difficult position by a government that appears to be incapable of taking a real lead on any issue.

Nevertheless, the ECB could still have had the moral courage to make the decision themselves. Now it's left to the players, who cannot be blamed if they put their own livelihood first, although they too should be capable of taking a moral stand.

If Nasser Hussain takes a lead himself by refusing to play in Zimbabwe, he will have shown Tony Blair a thing or two about leadership.
John, UK

How should the fans react? By a complete and unanimous absence! If the board hasn't got any backbone but only sees things in pounds and pence, at least the fans can register their disapproval.
Dave, UK

The gold award for hypocrisy in this fiasco must go to Mike Gatting. He suggests that the England cricket team should boycott the World Cup.

This from the man who led two rebel tours to apartheid-stricken South Africa. Oh, sorry it was for money. Okay, that's alright then. Pah!
Rod, England

This is a different type of issue to people who are not cricket fans. It is easier to answer no when the sport means nothing to you.

Cricket needs exposure and financial backing so it reaches the grass roots in as many countries as possible. If the UK government has no sanctions against Zimbabwe then we must play. The MPs are telling the cricket team in all the papers not to go but they do not want the costs that go with cancellation.

The ECB have taken the correct decision and I back them all the way. They are making decisions not just for the next game but the future of cricket.
Brian, England

If the ECB can't make a stand then it is down to the fans to make a point

Ben Thwaites, England

Excellent decision. Glad the authorities have clarified that politics and sport are totally different streams and I'm glad it wasn't mixed. Will be very pleased if even the people who were against this decision to come forward and back it and enjoy the game.
Nax, UK

I am getting increasingly desperate with the lack of strongly held political opinions the UK government has. The government has had a moral obligation for many years to lead the demand for action against the Mugabe regime.

Instead, the government have taken the opportunity to pretend they are being firm over the murder and mutilation taking place in Zimbabwe but at the same time putting the onus of action on a sporting agency.

The government should be ashamed that they have abdicated their responsibility and tried to leave the blame with the cricket board. When will principles return to politics?
Rob , England

I wrote into this site some time ago on this issue, to state that I strongly objected to the England cricket team going to Zimbabwe for the obvious reason that the situation in that country is abhorrent.

However, having recently spoken to relatives who live there and been given the view on the ground, I get the impression that no matter what happened, Mugabe would be able to make political capital out of it.

So, for the morale of the people, we should honour our obligation to play, but should be seen to refute any attempts by the Zim government to use us for their political benefit.
Chris B, UK

The fans should stay away from the game. If the ECB can't make a stand then it is down to the fans to make a point. I still have no idea, why when England players were able to lead a rebel tour to South Africa in the 80s, the individual players are not able to rebel and stay away from the tournament.
Ben Thwaites, England

Neither the England team nor the fans should be making the trip to Zimbabwe. Where has everyone's sense of morality gone? I am appalled at the comments of Mike Gatting saying one match won't make a difference!

I guess the tortures and political murders going on less than a mile away don't make a difference. And imagine the Barmy Army emerging merry from the gates of Harare Sports Club after a predictable victory only to be confronted by Mugabe's guards outside his house across the road.

Has nobody realised England will be playing and supporting cricket in a cricket ground only a few yards from the house of one of the most brutal leaders of this century?
Michael, Zimbabwe

As we all know English cricket is not what it should be, and a loss of 11m would shatter the last five years of work in grass roots development.

We all want our national team to be better, and this costs money. Had the government footed the bill I think the ECB would have jumped at the chance of a boycott. But without that compensation they cannot, as their first priority is the continued development of cricket.

Why are people not pouring pressure on the government to do something about the Zimbabwe problems? It should not be down to a team of sportsmen to make such a political statement.

I think they are quite right to play, particularly as the government will not compensate them if they don't

Paul Tomlinson, UK

I hope that all the team go there with their morals intact, they have nothing to be ashamed of, they are doing this for the love of their sport and their nation. I hope they do us proud.
Craig, UK

If the government wanted England to not play in Zimbabwe, they should have let their feelings known in November when England were asked by the ICC to play in Zimbabwe, not leave it until a month before the match.

I think they are quite right to play, particularly as the government will not compensate them if they do not play.
Paul Tomlinson, UK

It's not fair from the government to put such pressure on a non-political organisation. If the government is so worried about Zimbabwe's human rights record then why doesn't it impose economic sanctions on them? Sport and Politics should never mix.
Amin Ibrar, England

It's an absolute disgrace. Putting forward the sport v politics argument is a smokescreen and a cop out. The cricketing authorities have shown themselves to be morally bankrupt.
Al, UK

Now that they have decided to go, I hope Nasser Hussain and the players have the guts to refuse to shake hands with the Zimbabwean ministers, including Mugabe. I would even suggest that they turn their backs on them in protest.
Howard Balkind, England

A true kick in the teeth to the 6m people Mugabe is starving in his own country. The only thing more pathetic than the ECB is the stance of the British government. No doubt when things go wrong it will be the UK taxpayer who'll have to sort the mess out.
Chris, UK

Shame on them - I certainly won't be supporting England in the cricket any more

Karen, UK

I am appalled, disgusted even. I was born and lived in Zimbabwe for 27 years so I know what I am talking about. This whole issue boils down to one thing and one thing only - money.

The ECB are only interested in the money deals. This has absolutely nothing to do with sport. England's cricket team isn't up to much anyway. It will be a huge waste of time them even being there.
Syd Buxton, UK

How typical that once again this comes down to money and to hell with the horrors that are occurring against humanity. The ECB talk about sport being singled out but surely this is an area that can highlight the tragedies occurring in Zimbabwe to a bigger audience than the government.

Shame on them - I certainly won't be supporting England in the cricket any more.
Karen, UK

I am ashamed to be English, surely the moral issues raised here are more important than money!
Daniel Dodds, England

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 VOTE RESULTS
Should the England team toe the ECB line?

Yes
 47.13% 

No
 52.87% 

4392 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Calls grow for World Cup matches in Zimbabwe to be boycotted

Zimbabwe decision

Background

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