UEFA lifts ban on Israel soccer games

Decision made due to return of peace and quiet to region following cease-fire.

benayoun soccer 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
benayoun soccer 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
UEFA announced on Friday that it has lifted the ban on European soccer matches taking place in Israel with immediate affect. The European governing body last month ruled that all games to be played in Israel should be relocated to a neutral venue as a result of the security situation in the north of the country. The decision forced Israel's national side, which is participating in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, and Israeli clubs taking part in European competitions, to play their "home" ties abroad. "Matches may be staged in Israel as of today [Friday], but only in accordance with the conditions set up by the UEFA Executive Committee on 21/22 April 2004 and then confirmed on 22 May 2006," said UEFA in a statement. The conditions set by the executive committee are that, "matches must be played in the region of Tel-Aviv only, that security guarantees are required for every match, and that UEFA may re-impose a ban at any time if it considers that there has been a deterioration in the security situation." UEFA also stressed that the Israel Football Association will need to provide "security guarantees, issued by the competent public authorities and the association/clubs, together with the announcement of the stadium according to the relevant UEFA competition regulations." The first match to take place in Israel will be Hapoel Tel Aviv's second leg of the first round of the UEFA Cup against Chornomorets Odessa on September 28 at Bloomfield stadium. The national side's next home game will be on the 15th of November when Croatia will come to the national stadium in Ramat Gan for its European championship qualifier. "I was delighted when the matches returned to Israel in 2004 and I'm even happier now with the games returning after a single month," IFA chairman Itzhak (Iche) Menahem said on Friday. "I hope that this will raise the country's morale." "Going back to normality is of course an advantage for everyone," UEFA spokesman William Gaillard told The Associated Press. "We asked our security and stadium people to review the decision and... they decided the games can resume in the Tel Aviv area under certain conditions. "This decision could be revoked if we have reason to believe that security can be jeopardized."