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Sutherland defends scrapped tour as Socceroos travel to Bangladesh

Sutherland defends scrapped tour as Socceroos travel to Bangladesh

PERTH (Reuters) – Australia’s cricket chief has defended the postponement of a test tour of Bangladesh in the wake of the decision by the country’s soccer team to play a World Cup qualifier in the South Asian nation this week.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland called off the two-test tour last month because of fears it could expose their cricketers to potential militant attacks in the country.

The Asian champion Socceroos, however, announced on Friday that they would play against Bangladesh at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Tuesday.

“I firmly believe that we had no choice, absolutely no choice,” Sutherland told ABC radio on Saturday.

“When it comes up again — if it does — we’ll go through the same process. It is a matter of circumstances on the day and at the time.”

Cricket Australia, who were offered a level of security reserved for visiting heads of state by their Bangladeshi counterparts, consulted with Australian Government agencies and their own security advisers before making the decision.

A delegation they sent to Bangladesh was in the country when Italian aid worker Cesare Travella was shot dead. Days after Tavella was shot, a Japanese man was killed. Islamic State claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) consulted with the Australian and Bangladesh governments, the Bangladesh Football Federation, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) before deciding to travel.

“We made our decision at the time based on the best intelligence and advice we had from all of the relevant sources included government,” Sutherland added.

“I don’t know how long they are going to be landed in Dhaka for, but it is very different to a three week tour. Going back and forth to training in between times is very different to a scenario where you fly in to play a game and fly out.”

The Socceroos will arrive in Dhaka on the eve of the match on Monday.

“Right from the outset our number one priority has been the safety of our staff and players,” FFA chief David Gallop said.

“Over the last month we have undertaken an extensive intelligence and risk management operation, driven by our world class security advisors and the relevant government and security agencies, and we are happy with the plans put in place.”

Attacks on foreigners remain rare in Bangladesh, despite a rising tide of Islamist violence over the last year that has seen four online critics of religious militancy hacked to death.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Patrick Johnston)

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