Sponsors warn England
LONDON, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Lord MacLaurin, chairman of Vodafone, has said the mobile phone companyís sponsorship of the England team would be jeopardised if the squad toured Zimbabwe next year, Britainís Guardian newspaper said on Friday
MacLaurin, the former chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), told The Guardian the prospect of England visiting Zimbabwe while Robert Mugabe remained in power was "abhorrent".
Mugabe is battling international isolation over accusations of human rights and other abuses in Zimbabwe. His re-election last year was rejected by many Western powers, as well as opposition within the country, as fraudulent.
"We do not want to support a side that goes and plays in a country with the sort of regime that is reviled not just by this company but by many in the country," MacLaurin was quoted as saying.
"To do so would be abhorrent and would be good for the brand image neither of Vodafone nor England cricket."
England, who are scheduled to tour Zimbabwe in November 2004, boycotted their World Cup match in the strife-torn southern African country earlier this year.
"We believe in the cold light of day, and having had the experience of the World Cup, that it would be inappropriate for the tour to take place and as major sponsors we would certainly urge them to withdraw," MacLaurin said.
ECB chairman Tim Lamb said his organisation would have to think seriously about Vodafoneís concerns.
"Of course we have concerns too and have expressed them," Lamb told The Guardian. "It is a regular item of discussion at meetings that deal with England matters.
"We are very mindful of the issues that arose before the World Cup and we will need to give serious consideration to concerns expressed by our sponsors.
"There has been no suggestion that Vodafone would pull the plug although we fully understand their image concerns."
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