Cricket Council call off tour ‘with deep regret’

Today The Times reports the announcement that the South African cricket tour has been called off – a triumph for the Stop The Seventy Tour movement:

The Cricket Council yesterday cancelled at the Government’s request the South African’s cricket tour. A statement said that the council withdrew their invitation ” with deep regret “. African and Asian countries which had threatened to boycott the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in July if the tour went on are now expected to attend.

A barrister said he would launch a private prosecution at Bow Street Magistrates’ Court next week against Mr. Peter Hain, chairman of the Stop The Seventy Tour Committee, accusing him of seditious conspiracy.

The Cricket Council last night Called off the South Africans’ tour this summer. After a meeting at Lord’s lasting 90 minutes, Mr S C Griffith, secretary of the council, read out a statement. It said that the council had considered “the formal request from her Majesty’s Government to withdraw the invitation to the South African touring team this summer”, adding:- ” With deep regret the council were of the opinion that they had no alternative but to accede to this request and they are informing the South African Cricket Association accordingly.”

The council was grateful for the overwhelming support of cricketers, cricket lovers and many others, and shared their disappointment at the cancellation of the tour.  At the same time it regretted the “discourtesy” to the South African Cricket Association and the inconvenience caused to so many people.

“The council see no reason to repeat the arguments to which they still adhere, which led them to sustain the invitation to the South African cricketers issued four years ago”, the statement said. ” They do, however, deplore the activities of those who, by the intimidation of individual cricketers and threats of violent disruption have inflamed the whole issue.”

The meeting was attended by 25 of the council’s 29 members, including Colin Cowdrey, the England Test player. No vote was taken on the decision. Mr. Griffith read out the text of a terse letter sent to Mr. Callaghan, Home Secretary, who on Thursday met the council’s officials and asked them to cancel the tour.

The letter said: ” The Cricket Council today considered the formal request of her Majesty’s Government to withdraw their invitation to the South African Cricket Association to tour the United Kingdom in 1970 contained in your letter of May 21 1970. “The council were of the opinion that they had no alternative but to accede to the request and are informing the South African Cricket Association accordingly.” It was signed by Maurice Allom, chairman of the Cricket Council. Mr. Griffith, who met the press in the Long Room at Lord’s, invited questions but was reluctant to enlarge on the feeling of the council about its decision. […] When the name of Mr. Peter Hain, chairman of the Stop the Seventy Tour Committee, was mentioned Mr. Griffith said quietly: “I am not the faintest bit interested.” More than 500 telegrams, nearly all in support of the council’s decision to go ahead with the tour arrived at Lord’s yesterday.

Instead of the Test matches against South Africa England will now play five matches against a Rest of the World team. The council hopes to recoup some of the revenue lost from the tour. Mr. Griffith estimated that in normal circumstances the South African tour would have produced a profit of about £200,000. He could make no estimate of the cost of defences put up at the grounds due for matches but said that although they were quite expensive they were not astronomical. […]

Mr. Quintin Hogg last night blamed Mr. Callaghan and Mr. Wilson for bowing to threats and yielding to blackmail over the South Africans’ cricket tour. The cancellation, he said, came because of persons who threatened extra-legal action to disrupt perfectly lawful activity and resorted to bullying for the purpose of imposing their decision upon an independent body of sportsmen. The decision by the Cricket Council was taken under duress, Mr. Hogg said. It was a sad day for British freedom. He accused Mr. Wilson of deliberately encouraging the threats and being ” responsible in part for the situation out of which he has now sought to dodge. ” The whole operation is a classic illustration of the inability of this Government to preserve freedom in this country, or to maintain law and order ”

Mr. Peter Hain, chairman of the Stop the Seventy Tour Committee, said it was extremely courageous of the Government in acting to pull the situation out of an entrenched position. “I would hope the Conservative Party will come out in support of the Labour Party in these circumstances.” He described it not as a backing down for British cricket but an advance to a situation where racialism would be rejected in international sport.

Mr. Dennis Brutus, president of the South African Non-Racial Open Committee for the Olympic Games, said: “The way is open to real progress towards non-racial cricket in South Africa.” Mr. Jeff Crawford. secretary of the West Indian Standing Conference, commented: “I would hope that the momentum we have gained for the fight against racialism will go on in Britain.”

The Bishop of Woolwich the Right Rev. David Sheppard, Mr. Reginald Prentice and Sir Edward Boyle, of the Fair Cricket Campaign, said: ” This wise decision is a victory for reason. It is not a surrender to intimidation or blackmail. By its decision the Cricket Council has committed itself firmly to the principle of non-racial cricket in the future.”

Internationally the decision had immediate repercussions. All 12 African countries will now take part in the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. Officials there were jubilant at news of the cancellation. Within British cricket there were some strong comments. Mr. J. C. Clay, president of Glamorgan County Cricket Club, said: “It is a sad day for English cricket and England when a combination of polities and rowdies can blackmail two harmless sets of cricketers playing their own game”‘ Mr. C. R. Yeomans, chairman of the Council of Cricket Societies said in Leeds: “The Government,  not the Cricket Council, have capitulated to anarchy.” […]

Mr. Francis Bennion, a barrister, of Warlingham, Surrey, said yesterday he would launch a prosecution at Bow Street Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday against Mr Peter Hain, chairman of the Stop the Seventy Tour Committee, accusing him of seditious conspiracy. Mr. Bennion said he would do so “‘under provisions of the criminal law which make it seditious to conspire to provoke tumult and disorder in furtherance of any object, to promote breaches of contract and acts of trespass, and to insult or annoy law-abiding people”

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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