Fans banned from Israel’s Davis Cup tie

February 28th, 2009 - 7:36 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 28 (IANS) Israel’s away Davis Cup tennis tie against Sweden is certain to go ahead without spectators before just a handful of journalists and officials in Malmo as attempts to reverse the decision seems unlikely to succeed.
A last-ditch attempt to switch the match to Stockholm failed because of lack of time, which means spectators would be banned from the venue in Malmo for fear of anti-Israel protests, the Guardian reported.

The move by Malmo local authorities, overturning an earlier decision by the city’s police force to allow the tie to go ahead in front of paying fans, has raised fears that the recent attacks on Gaza will continue to have ramifications for global sport and could set a worrying precedent.

Earlier this month the Isarel’s leading female player, Shahar Peer, was denied a visa to compete in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tournament in Dubai by authorities who also cited security fears, earning the organisers a $300,000 fine.

This week her compatriot Andy Ram, who is also in the Davis Cup squad, became the first Israeli to play in the Gulf state in the same competition, amid tight security.

Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, has a left-leaning local government and a large Muslim community. Despite an earlier police report saying that they could deal with any potential protests or other security issues, local leaders narrowly voted to ban spectators.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF), which oversees the Davis Cup, has hit out at the decision but refused calls to force Sweden to forfeit the match.

Together with the Swedish Tennis Association, it has been lobbying the Swedish government in an effort to force the Malmo authorities to reverse their decision before the World Group tie begins.

The ITF president, Francesco Ricci Bitti, said: “We do not agree with the decision by the Malmo authorities to exclude the public, and even at this late date, maintain our request that the decision not to allow spectators be reconsidered.”

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