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August 21, 2002 | 1105 IST

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England players back ICC rebels

England players are backing a growing boycott of the ICC Champions Trophy led by India, their rivals in the third Test starting at Headingley on Thursday, according to reports in the British media.

The England players' representative Richard Bevan has advised them not to sign up for the tournament in Sri Lanka starting on September 12 over a sponsorship dispute, newspapers reported from the test match venue on Tuesday.

"Discussions are going on at the moment and we hope by the weekend a compromise will be reached. If not the situation will get very serious indeed," Bevan, managing director of the Professional Cricketers' Association, told reporters.

The row could jeopardise the ICC's flagship World Cup tournament in South Africa next year.

"In the end I expect there to be a sub-agreement in the contract that will allow those with pre-existing contracts to carry on as normal," Bevan said.

The ICC contract, drawn up for both the Champions Trophy and the World Cup, contains a clause preventing players from endorsing products other than those from official ICC sponsors.

Leading Indian players, including captain Sourav Ganguly and top batsman Sachin Tendulkar, with big personal sponsorship deals are against signing the ICC contract.

But India's cricket board, the BCCI, stood firm in the row with its top players and said earlier on Tuesday they were prepared to send a second-string squad to Sri Lanka.

South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan have also all failed to sign the controversial contract which the ICC insists on players signing in order to be eligible for the tournament.

The issue is to be discussed by Australian Tim May, joint chief executive of the International Cricketers' Association, and ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed.

May, who also heads the Australian Cricketers' Association, said: "There must be significant progress before we suggest (the players) sign anything."

Bevan went on to say: "We will then sit down and review the whole thing again in October.

"In the future though, the ICC must communicate with the players to find out whether they have deals with conflicting interests before they go into agreements with their commercial sponsors."

One England player, who has not been named, has signed the ICC contract, the reports said.

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