Sunday, November 28, 2004

Further shame on the ECB

It looks like England will only be playing a four-game series in Zimbabwe. Better than five games, but it is still four games too many. Today's game is already beginning to look like a pushover - and this being an England side, generally weak at one-day cricket, that is without its three best players. The racist policies of Zimbabwe Cricket in targeting players in a contract dispute have weakened the side beyond the realms of credibility, and on cricketing grounds alone there is no reason for England to be there.

What is most shameful and disgraceful, however, is that the ECB did not call the tour off following the refusal to grant accreditation to the British press. Even the ICC, who have acted equally disgracefully throughout the whole process, said the ECB could have called the tour off on such a basis without facing financial penalty. Instead, the officials of the ECB have negotiated with the tyrant Mugabe so that a morally corrupt government, which has already rounded up those likely to use the games for a political protest, can host a tour to pretend that all is nice and rosy.

Furthermore, they are justifying the petty politics of Mugabe and the Zanu-PF party. When the journalists were originally refused access, the world was told that they were being excluded because of the political beliefs of the organs that they represented - for example the Daily Telegraph, which Mugabe apparently believes is an agent of MI5. Yet when the "climbdown" was announced, it was apparently an administrative error that had led to the refusal of entry. Such lying is transparent and it is embarrassing to me, as a passionate England cricket fan, that our authorities are willing to go along with this charade.

Tony Blair's constant refrain was that sport and politics do not mix. Mugabe has used this whole sorry saga as naked politics. Angus Fraser wrote an excellent article in yesterday's Independent saying that all the bodies - Government, ECB and ICC - were motivated solely by money in their concern. This is unacceptable. Sport can, and should be used as a moral force. No-one has come out of this whole palaver with any credit; but the final act of the ECB was worst of all. Being fearful of pecuniary punishment is understandable - negotiating with a tyrant without such fear is morally wrong and reprehensible.