Man United's Gill defends Jakarta planning

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The Independent Online

Manchester United chief executive David Gill has defended the club's decision to organise a match in Indonesia as part of this summer's Far East tour.

The trip to Jakarta was hastily cancelled, less than 36 hours before arrival, following the terrorist atrocity, which has left eight dead, scores injured and struck the Ritz-Carlton Hotel where United were intending to stay.

Fears about visiting a country where 200 were killed by the Bali bomb in 2002 were expressed when United first announced the trip earlier this year.

Such accusations are bound to be raised again given the awful events, described as a "barbaric act of murder" by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Some have even suggested the attacks took place so close to United's arrival in order to maximise publicity because the club was bound to cancel their visit, while the fact it took place at all raises question marks about security arrangements.

However, Gill insists the correct authorities were consulted and United were right to arrange the game.

"We are experienced at travelling," said Gill.

"We don't take these decisions lightly. We discussed the situation with the relevant authorities and it was the right decision at the time.

"The experts felt it was a safe place to go."

United were due to play an Indonesian All-Star squad at the sold-out 100,000-capacity Bung Karno Stadium on Monday.

Negotiations are currently taking place to see whether the match can be relocated to Kuala Lumpur, where United are now expected to remain until Wednesday, when they are due to fly to Seoul.

However, that will not come as much consolation to United's army of fans in Indonesia who will now not get to see their heroes in action.

Neither can United's commercial partners in the region simply make the two-hour flight to Malaysia and carry out their presentations as planned, partly because one of them is telecommunications company 3G.

Indeed, it will be some time, if ever that United venture back to the country, with Ferguson quick to rule out any possibility the Old Trafford outfit might change their minds if fresh assurances were received from the Indonesian authorities.

"We have made our decision," he said.

"We are terribly disappointed because we know how much work has gone into Manchester United going to Indonesia.

"We are well aware of the fan base we have there.

"I have been to Asia with Manchester United for 21 years and I have always admired the support and fan base that we have. Going to Indonesia for the first time was a prospect we were looking forward to.

"Unfortunately we can't. Maybe it will happen another time but there is no going back on this occasion."

Ferguson will be asked for his input into talks about the best way forward for United.

In an ideal world, the Indonesian team United were supposed to be playing will come to Malaysia.

However, if the United boss feels the Red Devils must have a game at the start of this week, Gill and the tour organisers may try to organise something locally rather than risk protracted discussions with Indonesia which ultimately do not deliver a match.

It is also possible United might take part in an extended training session which, judging by the noise made by 20,000 fans who turned up to the Bukit Jalil Stadium to see them in action tonight, would go down well.

Alternatively, they might leave early for Seoul, although that prospect is the least likely of those on offer.

"We are looking at various things," said Gill.

"In all probability we will stay here but we are discussing the situation with the organisers and the Indonesian FA and will decide what the appropriate course of action is because we need to sort out the logistics for the rest of the week."

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