After Peer, UAE may now deny visa to Israel’s Andy Ram

February 17th, 2009 - 10:55 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 17 (IANS) The row over denial of visa to Israel’s Shahar Peer by Dubai Tennis Championships organisers is likely to escalate with doubles player Andy Ram, a member of Israel’s Davis Cup team, also likely to meet the same fate for the men’s championships starting next week.
Ram, who won the Australian Open title last year with fellow Israeli Jonathan Erlich, is waiting to hear if his visa application has been granted although it seems unlikely that it will be, reports The Guardian.

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) declined to comment prior to any decision, although unofficially they made it clear that the UAE must this week decide whether it wished to remain an international tennis venue.

Larry Scott, chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association tour, said the UAE’s refusal to grant Peer a visa, ostensibly on the grounds of the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, clearly breached the ethos that players should be treated equally.

“It’s a fundamental principle, and fundamental to our credibility as a sporting organisation,” Scott was quoted as saying in the report.

Scott said the tournament would go ahead this year but it is almost certain that if Peer and Ram remain barred the WTA and ATP will decide to ditch Dubai from the calendar. ATP board is due to meet in Indian Wells, California, next month.

“We don’t want (the decision to proceed with the tournament) to be interpreted as complacency and accepting what has happened, because it’s not,” Scott said.

“We will take a decision about what is to be done only after consultation with the players and tournament directors. We don’t have a timetable on this yet. This is a shock and it has to be digested.”

Peer said she did not believe that politics and sport should be mixed.

“I am very disappointed that I have been prevented from playing in Dubai,” she said.

“I think a red line has been crossed here that could harm the purity of sport. I have always believed that politics and sports should not be mixed.”

Peer’s brother and manager, Shlomi Peer, said he believed exclusion was on the grounds of her nationality. “I can assume that it is because she is Israeli, and not because she has brown eyes,” he said.

Although the UAE does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, Scott said he was surprised that Peer was not allowed to play.

“In the last two months we have been in daily contact with them. I am surprised by the decision they took, because of the significant ramifications there has been, not only in the world of professional tennis, but to the sporting agenda, and beyond.”

Francesco Ricci Bitti, president of the International Tennis Federation, the governing body, said he would contact the UAE tennis association to remind them the ITF does not permit discrimination.

“Shahar Peer earned her place.”

“The ITF believes that sport should not be used as a political tool but rather as a unifying element between athletes and nations.” Bitti said.

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