Australian rugby stars face backlash after abandoning their British tour

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The Independent Online

From Sydney to Denmark, from Indy car racing to wrestling, the world of sport is struggling to overcome the security fears caused by the attacks on America and subsequent strikes on Afghanistan.

From Sydney to Denmark, from Indy car racing to wrestling, the world of sport is struggling to overcome the security fears caused by the attacks on America and subsequent strikes on Afghanistan.

After golf's Ryder Cup, due to be staged between European and America last week at the Belfry, became the first high-profile event to be cancelled a number of other sports have followed suit. The result has been a loss of billions of pounds of revenue, a deficit some sports will find it difficult to cope with.

The biggest blow to British sport came this week with the Australian rugby league team's decision to cancel their Ashes tour, scheduled for this month, after a number of players revealed their reservations about travelling to these islands. There was some hope yesterday for the Rugby Football League, which announced that the financial loss could be "crippling" to the game in this country, when the prospects of a shortened tour were raised.

Australia's rugby union team, the Wallabies, who are also due to tour Europe and Britain later this month, announced yesterday that they were still on course to travel and that they were "encouraged to see the work being done to ensure player safety". This came despite the fact they had been given exactly the same security information as the Australian Rugby League.

If their reluctance to fly was understandable ­ and it is in doubt whether the New Zealand rugby union team will embark on their tour of Ireland, Scotland and Argentina next month ­ it still served to highlight the dilemma world sport finds itself in.

Almost every one has been affected. In Copenhagen, police put extra security in place yesterday for Saturday's heavyweight boxing bout between Mike Tyson and Brian Nielsen. In wrestling, Bulgaria stepped in yesterday to host the world freestyle championships, which were originally scheduled to be held in New York last month. The annual Indy cars race on Australia's Gold Coast, expected to attract nearly 300,000 spectators in two weeks' time, is on the verge of being called off.

Tennis, golf, baseball, American Football, ice hockey, to name but a few other sports, have all also been hit as competitors have stayed in their own countries or security fears have lead to cancellations.

But perhaps the finest example of the jitters came yesterday when Australian swimming officials said that they will make their competitors sign indemnity forms promising not to sue the governing body over "acts of terrorism" before they will be allowed to compete in a series of events in New York, Edmonton and Rio de Janeiro.

Of course the world's favourite sport, football, did not escape the fallout. Chelsea were due to hold crisis talks before committing themselves to next week's Uefa Cup tie against Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel, while the Republic of Ireland are still unsure whether their World Cup play-off would be against Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar or even Uzbekistan. All would pose obvious security risks.

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