Players at risk – on the pitch and off it

FrontRow’s breakfast seminar on player safety will predominately focus on the question: Are the demands on modern sport to be spectacular compromising the safety of participants? Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, speaking about the Barclays Premier League recently said: "I just can't imagine what state I'll be in within five or six years if I continue to play here - it could easily give me problems when I stop playing. The physical level is superior to all other countries." The recent bomb explosions outside an Indian Premier League cricket match in Bangalore highlight that the issue of player safety extends far beyond what occurs on the field. A double explosion outside Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium was followed by the discovery of a third device in Bangalore on Sunday. The blasts left 14 people with injuries and prompted the relocation of the semi-finals to Mumbai. It sparks concern for the safety of competitors. Kevin Pietersen, one of five English players playing in the IPL was reported as being anxious and upset over the handling of the incident by The Guardian. The 2011 ICC World Cup is scheduled to be hosted in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. India stage 29 of the 39 World Cup matches starting in February. England player representatives are voicing their concern. Ian Smith of The Professional Cricketer’s Association said: “The IPL is primarily an Indian event, whereas at the World Cup you’ve got a far more dangerous situation, more spread out, with whole teams of foreigners rather than just a couple of blokes.” The blasts came only 4 days after an incident in Holland involving current Eredivisie league leaders FC Twente. The team bus, with former England boss Steve McClaren on board was attacked with stones on route to their league tie against AZ Alkmaar. There were no injuries but the vehicle sustained damage. A terrorist attack in Angola on Togo’s team bus during the African Cup of Nations this year left the teams press officer and coach driver dead and defender Serge Akakpo and goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale among a number injured. Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adabayor, who retired from International football after the attack said: "We were just footballers going to play a football match and represent our country, yet we were attacked by people who wanted to kill us all.” Delhi plays host to the Commonwealth Games this October. “Security is a priority for us, as it is at every Games. We will continue to monitor it and take advice from the Commonwealth Games Federation” said an England team spokeswoman. Attacks against sportsmen and women appear to be more prevalent as those intent on violence seek to disrupt legitimate sporting activities to promote their own goals. One can only hope that such activity does not disrupt international sports and healthy competition at international events.

Published April 27, 2010

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