FICA justifies warning about Lahore risk
The Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) has insisted its warning to players thinking of playing in the Pakistan Super League final in Lahore is from "highly credible security experts" and "in line with advice from government agencies and diplomatic missions."
FICA was fiercely criticised by the PCB after circulating a memo to players, players' associations and players' agents that spoke of "an extremely elevated" risk level in Pakistan. And while they stopped just short of advising players not to travel - they do not have the power to prevent them from doing so - they did conclude that "an acceptable level of participant security and safety cannot be expected or guaranteed."
That warning infuriated the PCB who responded by calling FICA's approach "careless and cavalier." Stating that "not a single foreigner or hotel has been attacked in Lahore in the last five years" the PCB scolded FICA for making "a sweeping negative statement about the security situation" from "thousands of miles away."
Although FICA have now expressed "great sympathy for fans and players in Pakistan" and stated they "we would like to see the PSL succeed" they have reiterated that their responsibility and priority was "the safety and security of players" and have stood by their earlier comments warning of an "elevated security risk" when visiting Pakistan.
Responding to the PCB's claim that FICA "cannot name even one credible security expert" which might have informed their original statement, FICA clarified that they utilised the advice of Eastern Star International (ESI). That is the company headed by Reg Dickason, who has provided security advice to the ECB, CA, NZC and the ICC among others and who recently gave the go-ahead for England's tour of Bangladesh.
"FICA relies on advice given by expert security consultants, Eastern Star International (ESI)," their statement reads. "ESI has supplied security services over several years to a number of cricket boards and international teams around the world and to the International Cricket Council (ICC).
"FICA sent a confidential memorandum highlighting the advice received from ESI relating to the elevated security risk for them of playing in Pakistan. The elevated risk is in line with advice from government agencies and diplomatic missions of several countries regarding travel by foreigners to Pakistan."
FICA also suggested the PCB was "not responsive" to attempts to discuss their security concerns relating to playing the PSL final in Lahore and reiterated the security situation which has led to the almost complete absence of top-level cricket from Pakistan since 2009.
"Since the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore Pakistan has played bilateral home series matches against ICC full member countries in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for security reasons," the FICA statement says. "The only full member men's team to tour Pakistan in this time was Zimbabwe in 2015. The ICC declined to send its match officials to Pakistan to officiate in this series for security reasons. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device outside the stadium in Lahore shortly before the 2nd ODI of the series, killing himself and a policeman.
"The PCB is staging all PSL matches, except the planned final in Lahore, in the UAE for security reasons. Several months ago the PCB consulted FICA in relation to provisions of the standard player contract for the PSL. When FICA expressed possible security concerns relating to playing the final in Lahore the PCB was not responsive to FICA on this issue."
Tony Irish, FICA's Executive Chairman, said: "Players around the world from affiliated countries have always looked to FICA to provide them with information relating to security risks of playing in various parts of the world. It is our responsibility to provide this information, which we obtain from highly credible security experts, so that players can make informed decisions."
The PCB has made clear that the PSL final will be played in Lahore on March 7 whether overseas players participate or not.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo