Everton have cancelled their tour of China and Hong Kong due to concerns about the SARS virus in the region.

The origins of the deadly respiratory illness have been traced to China and with the club due to participate in a four-team tournament in Shenzhen and Hong Kong, the club has decided to cancel the tour.

‘The simple truth is that we could not take the risk of exposing anyone, be they players, officials or supporters, to the possibility of infection by the SARS virus,’ Everton spokesman Ian Ross.

Everton are sponsored by the Chinese telecommunictaions phone company Kejian. One of the team’s players, Li Tie, was player of the year in China in 2002 and is the country’s most popular player.