Insurance crux may force change of venue for Georgia match

FEARS that Irish players are not covered by insurance in a war situation prompted yesterday’s move by the FAI to request their Group 8 World Cup qualifier against Georgia in Tbilisi next month be moved to a neutral venue.

The Department of Foreign Affairs are currently advising against non essential travel to Georgia and have been in regular contact with the FAI since before the conflict began.

But with the situation escalating in the region, the FAI voiced its concerns yesterday morning before sending faxes to FIFA, UEFA and the Georgian FA asking for a change of venue.

Senior association sources confirmed yesterday that insuring their multi-million euro stars would be almost impossible in “a war situation”. The FAI is one of a number of European associations which insures its players while on international duty, thus ensuring good relations with their clubs.

“You are talking about a €25m asset belonging to Liverpool in Robbie Keane, and he is only one example,” said an FAI source last night.

A formal statement released yesterday added that the FAI would “keep fans informed of any decision from FIFA on this matter and will continue to work with FIFA to enable them to make a timely decision”.

Fears over supporter safety is also of primary concern in Abbotstown and should there be a switch of stadium, it could make it easier for travelling fans to see their side’s first match en route to South Africa 2010.

However, when contacted yesterday, an FAI spokesman claimed they had no alternative venue in mind just yet.

“We wouldn’t have a preference yet as to where we’d like to play. It’s still very early days. We’ve been in regular contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs over the last few weeks, even before this happened.

“We went with the Department to Georgia in July for a reconnaissance trip with a view to setting up a consulate out there. It’s standard practice for all these trips. It’s important to operate in conjunction with them because they are best placed to advise on this sort of thing.

“We’ve had no response just yet. We deal with all international associations, as well as FIFA and UEFA, by fax but we would hope to hear back from the Georgian FA quite soon.

“What we have at heart is the welfare of our supporters and players. There are more important things than football.”

Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni is at FAI headquarters today where he will announce his squad to travel to Norway for the last international friendly before competitive action begins.

The Georgian football federation have told Wales they still want to play their friendly at Swansea next week despite the war in their country.

The Football Association of Wales have been monitoring the situation for the past few days, and privately felt the chances of the Georgians making it to the Liberty Stadium on August 20 were remote following the conflict.

But after discussions between the two associations yesterday, the Georgians have asked for a decision over whether the match can be played to be delayed until this morning.

Many of the Georgian players are playing overseas in some of Europe’s top leagues, so it would not be too difficult to assemble a squad without having to fly from Georgia.

Of the current Georgia squad, eight are based in their homeland, but seven are playing in Russia, three in Germany, and one each in France and Italy. Their captain is AC Milan defender Kakha Kaladze, who has 62 caps, while vice-captain Levan Kobiashvili — capped 71 times — is with Schalke in Germany.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox