Liverpool says after Haifa draw: 'It's crazy to play in Israel now'
Scousers express concern over prospects of coming to Israel in light of the recent crisis.
UEFA may have decided last week that Israeli teams could continue to host matches in the Tel Aviv area, but Friday's Champions League draw has put Maccabi Haifa up against exactly the kind of scenario it wanted to avoid - a draw against a big-name team that refuses to play in Israel.
Hours after the draw in which Haifa pulled Liverpool out of the hat, the English side announced it was unwilling to play in Israel
Liverpool has already begun unofficial contacts with UEFA and plans to issue an official protest demanding the match be switched to a neutral venue.
"We are very concerned," Liverpool's chief executive Rick Parry added. "We will be making our feelings known to UEFA and it is hard to see the conflict being resolved over the next couple of weeks. Our feeling is that the second leg should be played at a neutral venue... Obviously, Maccabi wants to play in Israel. That's understandable. But we have to be conscious of any risk to players or supporters."
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said he was appalled at the prospect of the staff having to travel to Israel at a time when the country is involved in military action.
"There is no way we should be going to Israel to play a game of football at this time. It's crazy to even consider it. UEFA cannot put anyone at risk," he told Liverpool's Web site.
The first leg is set for Anfield on August 8 or 9 with Haifa at home, hosting in Tel Aviv, in the second on either August 22 or 23.
Benitez added: "I feel sad for the people over there at the moment because it's a terrible time for them but we have to put the security and safety of everyone involved before anything else and that means we cannot travel there. It would be impossible to concentrate on the game.
Les Lawson, a spokesman for Liverpool's supporters club said: "Liverpool should not even be considering going there. Security can not be ensured anywhere in Israel 100 percent and certainly not now."
UEFA spokesman Rob Faulkner said the situation was being closely monitored and a decision would be taken nearer the time.
"The situation is changing daily," Faulkner said. "We do have a little bit of time. The key to this is the safety and security of players, fans and officials, so we wouldn't make that decision without having those 100 percent assurances, and that is information we are chasing at the moment."