Iraq-style security for cricket tours

BY MICHAEL DONALDSON
Last updated 10:42 26/04/2009

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Increased fear over player safety on the subcontinent means New Zealand Cricket will turn to higher level security firms, with chief executive Justin Vaughan drawing comparisons with American companies operating in Iraq.

Vaughan said the old ways of managing risk had been usurped following the direct attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore earlier this year and with the New Zealand cricket team due to tour Sri Lanka in August as well as Bangladesh and India next year, security has become even more important than usual.

"Lahore has changed the landscape," Vaughan told the Sunday Star-Times. "The stakes have lifted considerably and we have to be very careful in the advice we take."

Previously, NZC and other nations have used security experts such as former Aussie police officer Reg Dickason but Vaughan said he needed to up the ante.

"We need to take security to a higher level, possibly we have to look at the way [oil company] Halliburton and other US contractors in Iraq operate. Certainly it isn't an area we're willing to short-cut."

Previously pre-tour security checks centred on whether the team might get caught in incident by being in the wrong place at wrong time but the question now, post-Lahore, is whether a team would be a direct target.

New Zealand Cricket Players' Association head Heath Mills said he had already had players asking him about security in Sri Lanka, where fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tigers has resulted in extreme travel warnings for the north-east of the country and high level warnings for the south-west, Colombo, Kandy and Galle, where the cricket tours go.

And with a New Zealand A team scheduled to go to India at the same time, there is concern following the Mumbai terror attacks and violence of the type surrounding the elections in India, which was the main reason the IPL was transferred to South Africa.

"Players have certainly asked me what's happening with regard to security," Mills said. "They want to go but the first question now is `what's happening with security?'

"Security now is the biggest threat to the game, it has surpassed corruption, and we have to have world-class security. We will not be making recommendations to our players on whether to go or not unless we're 100% confident in the security check process and the recommendations that flow from it."

Mills said threat assessment was critical but it was more important to have high level security with the team.

"The management of security when you're on the ground is the area we need to focus on more than we have in the past.

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"We must have independent people with the team on the ground at all times. The situation in Pakistan showed you cannot rely on local police and army; through bitter experience we know that now," he said, referring to the Lahore attacks in which security forces deserted the minivan carrying the umpires.

Mills said it was important to build relationships with diplomatic missions in various countries to get independent advice on security and intelligence.

Vaughan said NZC would undertake a pre-tour security check in Sri Lanka in late June or early July. "The situation changes so rapidly that doing it too far ahead of time is pointless as you'd have to do it again nearer the time."

- Sunday Star Times

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