The juxtaposition of sport and politics almost always creates a moral maze from which it is extremely difficult to find the right exit. It is possible to see the financial and administrative pressures that led the England and Wales Cricket Board (EWCB) to decide yesterday to go ahead with its game against Zimbabwe in Harare in the World Cup next month. However, for the Board to justify its decision by drawing attention to the 300 UK companies which continue to trade with and in Zimbabwe is ingenuous. With the single exception of British Airways, how many of these companies are known to the general public? On the other hand cricket is an international sport with a high profile and a special significance as one of the non-political activities which helps to bind the Commonwealth together.
Tim Lamb, the Chief Executive of the EWCB, said yesterday that sport, sadly, is once again being used as a political tool to fill a policy vacuum that seemingly exists. The issue, however, is rather different. Why did the World Cup organisers ever include Zimbabwe in its venues for this event and why did the EWCB not see the looming problems before it signed the lucrative TV and other contracts which were the principal motivating force behind yesterday's decision? The British government has rightly refused to ban the visit - imagine the fuss if it tried to do so - but it gave advice to the Board last summer that its preference was against the game taking place.