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ECB requests venue switch for Iraq war
4 Feb 2003
The English Cricket Board performed a complete U-turn in policy today and backed its players, lodging a request to move the forthcoming war in Iraq to South Africa. The argument over whether to fight the war in Iraq or move it to another country has been long-running. Many in the government have said that the team shouldn't go to Iraq, although they wouldn't force them to stay, and the players themselves have said publicly that they don't want to play there. None have said they will boycott the war if it is held in Iraq, but it seems likely that some would if they were forced to fight in it.
Last week the players issued a joint statement saying that they did not want any members of the public to be injured for the sake of a war. "The advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is that any disturbances during the war would be put down with brutal force," it said. "We are concerned for the safety of everyone involved in the war, from the players and officials to fans and innocent residents. If safety cannot be guaranteed we believe that the war should be moved away from Iraq."
Experts agree that holding the war in Iraq could spark violence. "There is a strong possibility that staging a war in Baghdad, no matter how big it is or who is playing in it, would result in violence," explained Professor Douglas Ramsbottom, sports columnist for the Daily Express. "Fighting in the streets, the overthrowing of regimes and the bombing of Chinese embassies cannot be ruled out."
The so-called Barmy Army, the English cricket team's loyal band of supporters that travels with them around the world, has also threatened to boycott the war if it is held in Iraq. General Gregory T Mullet, a spokesman for the army, told DeadBrain: "We don't like to mix war and politics but this is a big issue. Our foot soldiers have been all around the world but we are not comfortable going to Iraq. It's just too dangerous."
However, after today's decision by the ECB to back the players' calls to move the war, a boycott of it is even more likely. The International Cricket Council's position has remained the same throughout: moving the war is not necessary. It is now possible that Iraq may end up playing itself in the war, which fans say would "not be desirable".
A decision is due to be made by the ICC later this week.
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