Israel Sailing Association chairman Gili Amir has little faith in World Sailing, with recent experiences having left him disillusioned regarding the true intentions of the sport’s governing body.
With Israel’s sailors paying the price for the unsporting conduct of Muslim countries time and again in the past few months, Amir is no longer willing to accept empty words.
The ISA said on Monday that it has sent a letter to World Sailing President Carlo Croce asking that he guarantees that Israel’s sailors will be able to take part in all future events.
The ISA is concerned that its representatives will be unable to compete at the 2016 Youth World Championships to be held in Oman in December and the World Cup final to take place in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in October.
Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Oman or the United Arab Emirates.
The ISA’s letter came on the back of last week’s announcement by World Sailing, which blamed Malaysian authorities of forcing Israel’s windsurfers to withdraw from the 2015 Youth World Championships.
World Sailing added that sanctions would be imposed in the future event of a breach of the “no discrimination” regulations at a regatta.
Possible sanctions include: non-selection as a future venue, denial of appointment of World Sailing race officials to future regattas in the country, and/or cancellation of membership of World Sailing.
However, Amir doesn’t believe World Sailing actually plans to follow through with its decisions.
“We are very concerned that their decisions have no teeth,” Amir told The Jerusalem Post. “If we don’t remain on guard, we will find ourselves in the same situation ahead of the championships in Oman as we did in Malaysia.
“There are a lot of politics involved, and everyone just wants to get away with the minimum required. The president is facing an election in November and this is all politics. He wants everyone to support him. No one knows what will happen the day after the president is chosen and we are concerned.
“If there isn’t a proper warning period to make sure host countries act according to the Olympic Charter and that if they don’t they will lose the competition or be barred from taking part in the Olympics or sanctions of that sort which can change their stance, there is no point to this entire episode.”
Israel’s Yoav Omer and Noy Drihan did not have an opportunity to defend their titles at the Youth World Championships in Langkawi, Malaysia, earlier this month after the ISA said that it will not be participating in the event due to the demands made by the organizers and the fact the surfers had yet to receive visas.
The ISA claimed that it was told the surfers would not compete under the Israel flag, wouldn’t be allowed to use any symbol identifiable with Israel on their cloths or surfboards and that the national anthem would not be played should an Israeli win a gold medal.
“We are disappointed that Malaysia hasn’t been punished,” said Amir.
“We are also skeptical whether World Sailing plans to enforce its own decisions.
We are afraid that this is all politics and we only trust ourselves.”
After investigating the matter, World Sailing wrote in a statement last week that “all World Sailing championships involve an element of country representation, and at all these regattas, flags shall be displayed and winners’ anthems played. They shall be displayed and played equally for all competitors.
Organizing Authorities who are not able to meet this requirement should not bid, and will not be selected, to host future World Sailing championships.”
The sport’s governing body said that it “deeply regrets” that Israel’s representatives were unable to compete “due to the conditions imposed by the Malaysian authorities,” but also added that the ISA’s conduct contributed to the unfortunate outcome.
“That is complete nonsense. We did exactly what we were supposed to,” insisted Amir. “They received our letter 24 hours before we sent it to the media. They are telling tales. They had to somehow appease the Malaysians so they wrote that nonsense. It is entirely inaccurate. We went exactly by the book and they are looking for excuses after not meeting their obligations.”
Amir believes money is ultimately the source of the problem.
“Organizing an international sailing competition is an expensive business and World Sailing chooses countries in which it makes money,” explained Amir. “Places like Oman, Malaysia or Abu Dhabi pay World Sailing a lot of money to host events. They don’t even have any sailors so what incentive do they have other than a political one.
“This is a growing trend in recent years, with more rich Muslim countries bidding for competitions. We are waging a battle for all of Israeli sport and this shouldn’t be the case because this isn’t our private war. Israel has a Foreign Ministry, Sports Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office and I see this as their responsibility. They don’t give us the support we need. We shouldn’t even need to deal with this.”
Amir feels diplomatic pressure can bring about the required results.
“It isn’t enough just to shout and scream. You need to work behind the scenes and ensure that we are treated like any other country,” he said. “That is something which needs to be done on the day that a host country is selected. We need to enforce conditions that will mean they have to treat Israel like any other country and that we will be able to appear with our clothing and symbols and not have to enter the country under the radar and leave our phones and computers at home. We shouldn’t agree to continue this way.”
With potentially problematic events coming up later this year in Abu Dhabi and Oman, Amir insists he has learned his lesson.
“If we don’t have visas six months in advance and we don’t see that actions are being taken to ensure our participation then we will make a fuss again,” he said. “We will convene the World Sailing executive committee and demand to receive answers. They will not be able to remain indifferent.”