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Tax blow nudges ICC from home

London, Dec. 13: The threat of the International Cricket Council moving out of Lord's ' but not to Mumbai or Calcutta ' escalated today with the British government not granting it tax concessions.

However, a final decision has yet to be taken and the ICC may yet remain located next to the hallowed turf at Lord's if British public opinion can be mobilised against Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer (the equivalent of finance minister P. Chidambaram).

This is because the treasury (the ministry), having heard the ICC appeal for the concessions, turned it down.

An ICC spokesman told The Telegraph that the executive board of cricket's governing body would meet in New Zealand in the next few days and take a decision on whether the headquarters should shift.

India, where cricket makes most of its money, is not even in contention for the possible relocation. Instead, places like Dubai, Malaysia, Ireland and Switzerland are in the running, not for cricketing but commercial reasons. They have all offered attractive tax-free incentives, but Dubai is said to be the frontrunner.

The ICC is desperate to save well over '1 million through tax concessions. Although its suit was pressed by UK Sport, a promotional body, and the department of culture, media and sport, the request was rejected by the treasury.

Sources said the ICC feels let down because there were 'indications' that the tax advantages would be forthcoming. The promise was apparently made in June, when the ICC gathered at Lord's for its annual meeting to vote on a move to another country. The night before the vote, the ICC received a letter from UK Sport that the government would be prepared to grant concessions.

It was told that the concessions would be announced in the chancellor's pre-budget statement. But in the budget statement made earlier this month, there was no mention.

Last week, UK Sport wrote to the ICC apologising and saying that certain ministers had objected to the special tax status, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph.

The question of a possible shift has been under consideration for some time. Brendan McClements, the ICC's corporate affairs manager, told the BBC: 'The ICC management was asked to prepare a paper looking at cricketing and commercial reasons for being in this country or other possible locations.'

As to whether the game of cricket would be harmed if the ICC was forced to leave London, the spokesman said: 'The executive board will take all factors into account in making its decision.'

The government denies that any firm promise was made to the ICC. The spokesman for the minister for sport said: 'We would be disappointed and saddened if the ICC moved out of London but at the end of the day the decision is one for the ICC.'

The British government may not be particularly bothered about cricket which it might consider to be a 'toff's (rich man's) game'. But a powerful section of British society might not want to lose a sentimental link with the game.

, though it ceases to be a 'gentleman's' sport.

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