All harmony in the previously close-knit UB40 camp vanished yesterday as Ali Campbell announced his shock departure from the band.

Initial reports that the singer was leaving Birmingham's greatest musical exports to concentrate on his solo career were scoffed at by Campbell himself who cited management problems as the reason for his quitting after almost 30 years as frontman.

The remaining seven members have vowed to carry on, although doubts must remain about how successful they will be without the man whose voice is such a major part of their sound.

The news was broken in a statement released by the band's Birmingham publicists Frequency Media, which said: "UB40 have today confirmed that they have parted company with lead singer Ali Campbell after a 30 year career together, following Campbell's wish to focus more time on his solo career.

"Campbell's final dates with the band will be in Australia, New Zealand and Uganda in February 2008.

"Lead singer Ali Campbell had embarked upon a solo album project (Running Free) last year and throughout the course of this album, his time and commitment to the band began to conflict with his recording work, promotional commitments and his own corporate shows."

The split will come as a devastating shock to the millions of fans of the band in Birmingham and all over the world.

One of the most successful UK bands of the last 30 years, they were one of the few to crack the lucrative American market and were the first English band to play in the USSR.

In 2003, UB40 were also awarded the prestigious and highly coveted Ivor Novello for "International Achievement" in recognition of their outstanding success and achievements in overseas markets. On Friday morning, Campbell issued a statement which points to the parting of ways being far from amicable.

He wrote on his website: "As one of the founder members of UB40, I have put the band first in my life for the last 28 years and am deeply saddened at the ending of that relationship.

"No words can express how upset I feel today that I have been forced to make this decision. I am perhaps most upset on behalf of the fans, who have stuck with us, through thick and thin, throughout the years and are the best fans in the world.

"However, I feel that it is important for me to put the record straight on my reasons for leaving the band.

"Contrary to some of the misleading, false information and accusations that have been circulating in recent months, the reason for my forthcoming departure from the band is not, as has been stated, due to my wanting to pursue a solo career. That is not the truth. I released my first solo album 13 years ago and when I released my current solo album I had every intention to continue to balance my solo career with my commitment to the band.

"The reason for me leaving the band is that management difficulties, which have been ongoing for almost five years, had become intolerable.

"I have been deeply unhappy with administrative practices and with many decisions that have been made in recent years and I have an ongoing investigation into the handling of my business affairs in relation to UB40.

"Suffice to say I felt I had no other option but to resign from my band. This decision has not been taken lightly and has come as a result of a long, painful and agonising thought process."

On Friday, there was nobody answering the phone in the offices of UB40's Reflex Music management and The Birmingham Post was told that the band would not be speaking to journalists until later next week.

Ali Campbell was uncontactable in London, in rehearsals with his band for his upcoming solo tour. He plays at Birmingham's Indoor Arena on June 6.

A spokesman for him said: "Ali was completely unaware that Reflex intended to make this announcement last night.

"He had not seen the press release and had no knowledge of what it contained. It would have been his choice to inform the fans who have supported the band first, ahead of the media, but unfortunately, he was not given that opportunity and that was not his decision."

Campbell is believed to be the only member of the band to have moved away from the Midlands, with the others staying around Birmingham and running an office and rehearsal studios in Allcock Street, Digbeth, where they moved only last year.

The remaining band members, Robin Campbell, Earl Falconer, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, Michael Virtue, James Brown, and Astro, have not yet decided whether to replace Campbell and an announcement is expected next week about future plans.

A new UB40 album, their last with Campbell, is scheduled to be released in May.