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Game On For Zimbabwe Cricket Tour

Game On For Zimbabwe Cricket Tour

NZ Cricket’s Martin Snedden – a man with more than cricket on his mind

Cricket fans wanting to see Shane Bond back in action won’t be disappointed although those who oppose any sporting contact with Zimbabwe may well be after the New Zealand Government today confirmed there would be no legislative action to halt the upcoming Black Caps tour.

Today in a joint press conference both Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff and Associate Foreign Affairs Minister Jim Anderton explained that there was little the Government could do to stop the upcoming tour of Zimbabwe by the Black Caps.

Mr Goff was adamant that the Government wouldn’t be rushing through any legislation that would have short-circuited the normal legislative course of referral to a select committee and submissions from the public

“We will not interfere in the fundamental rights of New Zealanders by way of passing legislation in 48 hours under urgency without consultation, without public submissions,” he said.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff today suggested if the tour does go ahead that individual cricketers may want to take a stand by wearing protest armbands.

Mr Goff considered that New Zealanders and New Zealand sporting organisations shouldn’t be instructed where they should travel by the New Zealand Government.

On the basis that New Zealand Cricket’s only way out of the tour without massive penalties and the possibility of an international ban, was legislation from the Government, Mr Goff considered it likely the tour would proceed.

“We have an understanding of the dilemma New Zealand Cricket faces. They are in a situation where a refusal to go to Zimbabwe would not simply result in fines, penalties that could add up to tens of millions of dollars, but [refusal to go] would have a severe impact on their participation in the organisation that is responsible for international cricket,” he said.

It appears unlikely that the reciprocal tour by Zimbabwe of New Zealand will occur however. The New Zealand Government intends to deny visas to any of the Zimbabwean Cricket team or their support staff.

“That is something that is within our power to do as a Government. There is not a series of financial penalties that will be imposed by the ICC [International Cricket Council] on New Zealand Cricket. But, obviously there are some financial costs that they would incur and other costs including how it might affect the attempt for the 2011 World Cup,” explained Mr Goff.

It is understood the loss of the reciprocal tour may cost New Zealand cricket up to three million dollars. The Government may alleviate some of this financial burden but any decision on this matter has yet to be put to Cabinet.

The New Zealand Government has written a submission to the ICC calling on the ICC to remove Zimbabwe from the Future Tours Programme and to release member countries from financial and other penalties should a cricket tour be cancelled because of gross human rights abuses occurring in a country.

Although, New Zealand is supported in their actions by the Australian Government, it is unlikely to influence the members of the ICC. Mr Goff gave a quick rundown on the chances of the ICC being swayed by New Zealand and Australia’s human rights concerns.

“Will we succeed I think our chances are very slim. There has never been any flexibility shown by the wider membership of the ICC. Should we not do it then – no - it is critical to take the stand we are taking and it is critical to lay the foundation for future pressure on the membership of that organisation. No team should be compelled to go to a place where gross human rights abuses are occurring.”

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Mr Goff, Mr Anderton and Mr Snedden

New Zealand Cricket Chief Executive Martin Snedden, who had sat slumped in thoughtful contemplation during Mr Goff and Mr Anderton’s press conference, was in agreement with Mr Goff that it was exceedingly unlikely the ICC would call the tour off on human rights grounds.

He considered that the ICC, which had spent two years nailing down the details of their ‘ten-year future tours’ plan, would be loath to start mixing sport and politics.

“As soon as you open up the gate for political considerations as to whether sporting events should proceed then you create a level of uncertainty that you just can’t operate within,” he said.

Mr Snedden also pointed out that India would be touring at the same time as New Zealand. At present the Indian Government has made no moves whatsoever to cancel the tour of Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean Cricket Union is also receiving strong support from their neighbours in South Africa. Last week on June 29 Cricket South Africa (CSA) chief executive officer Gerald Majola told the Indo-Asian News Service.

“We view tours to and from Zimbabwe as cricketing matters and we will continue to meet our obligations to the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Zimbabwe Cricket Union in this regard. We have always been consistent in this."

It is understood the New Zealand Government is attempting through diplomatic channels to get the South African government to push for more than their current policy of ‘quiet diplomacy’. This approach appears to have had little or no effect on the current regime in Zimbabwe. Mr Goff considered South Africa and South African businesses would be in a strong position to exert pressure on the Zimbabwean regime.

Representatives of the Australian and New Zealand Governments will be handing over a joint diplomatic note to the South African government.

“These are the immediate neighbours of Zimbabwe - these are the people that could make a difference,” Mr Goff said.

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Note: The full members of the ICC are Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe

ENDS


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