Shabbat soccer given go-ahead by attorney-general

Yehuda Weinstein said he saw no reason to suddenly enforce a law that had been ignored for decades and that nobody would be prosecuted.

September 10, 2015 00:35
2 minute read.

Soccer [Illustrative]. (photo credit: INIMAGE)

Israeli soccer action in the professional and amateur leagues will go ahead as scheduled this weekend after the attorney-general announced on Wednesday that nobody would be prosecuted for playing on Shabbat.

Matches on Saturday came under threat after a court ruling on a petition by religiously observant players against taking to the field during the Jewish Sabbath.

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Their refusal to participate in some matches that in previous years have been held on weekdays, led the Tel Aviv Labor Court to rule that without a special waiver that allows companies to employ workers on Shabbat, Saturday soccer is illegal.

But Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said he saw no reason to suddenly enforce a law that had been ignored for decades and that nobody would be prosecuted.

Following that, the Israel Football Association announced that all matches would proceed as planned.

“It is a fact that professional soccer matches have been played in Israel on Shabbat forever and filing a criminal charge for playing on Shabbat after nothing had been done for decades is difficult in my eyes,” read the attorney-general’s letter.

Soccer matches have operated for decades without a waiver, as part of a so-called “status quo”. As a result of the court decision, Israeli Economy Minister Arye Deri, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, had to decide whether to issue a soccer waiver.

To do so would violate his own religious beliefs, but with soccer being Israel’s most popular sport, he ran the risk of angering many Israelis by canceling matches on Saturday, their only day off work.

Israel Football Association chairman Ofer Eini announced last week that all local soccer action will be suspended from this Wednesday should Deri not authorize the playing of matches on Saturday.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, an avid soccer fan, said on Wednesday that the Saturday games should go on.

“I think that the custom for the public in Israel is that on Saturday you go to synagogue and afterward you go to the stadium,” he said on Army Radio.

“This is the status quo.”

Sports Minister Miri Regev praised Weinstein’s decision and said a committee would seek a solution that would accommodate players who did not want to play on the Sabbath.

“I’m committed to the issue and I believe that we can reach a compromise which will ensure that anyone who wants to play on Shabbat will be able to, and anyone who doesn’t, won’t need to,” said Regev.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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