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Israeli teams face heavy Cyprus security bills

© Reuters 2002

NICOSIA, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Cyprus may be pricing itself out of the market over security costs for Israeli football teams forced to play on the island because of violence in the Middle East, a newspaper reported on Friday.

Champions League participants Maccabi Haifa, who have listed Nicosia as their home ground for the competition, were stunned to be handed a 110,000 pound ($188,000) security bill when they hosted Greek side Olympiakos on September 24, the Cyprus Mail newspaper reported.

According to insiders at the GSP stadium in Nicosia, a Maccabi Haifa official told police the cost may prompt a rethink of their venue.

"He asked; Don't you want Maccabi Haifa to play in Cyprus?. The answer was apparently a "no comment," a football source told the newspaper.

Maccabi Haifa are scheduled to play England's Manchester United in Nicosia on October 29. The 24,000 capacity stadium is expected to be packed, a factor which is important in estimating the security costs.

Police declined to be specific about the costs of each game, saying it depended on the level of risk and attendance figures.

"Its definitely above 50,000 pounds," police spokesman Christakis Katsikides said.

The costs of having hundreds of officers on duty to trail Israeli teams from the minute they arrived to the moment they left added up, he said.

But he balked at suggestions the police would give discounts on their bill, which was fixed and non-negotiable. "This is not a bargain basement," he told Reuters.

UEFA has suspended international matches in Israel because of the violence wracking the Middle East, and the Nicosia games are considered high risk.

For local standards, police have mounted massive security operations for each game with more than 1,000 officers deployed in the 24,000 capacity stadium.

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