UEFA sticks to its guns over European ties

Despite presence of IFA delegation, UEFA's chief executive confirmed Israeli clubs must find alternative venues for games due to security situation.

soccer ball 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
soccer ball 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
UEFA's emergency committee meeting upheld its decision Monday that Israeli clubs Hapoel Tel Aviv and Bnei Yehuda will have to play their UEFA Cup ties outside of Israel. The Israel Football Association sent a delegation to Geneva in the hope of persuading European soccer's governing body to reverse its position and allow the games to take place in Israel. But UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson sent a fax to IFA chairman Itzhak (Iche) Menahem confirming the decision that the Israeli clubs must find alternative venues outside of the country for the games due to the security situation. Hapoel were due to host Slovenian side Domzale on 8 August with Bnei Yehuda hosting Lokomotiv Sofia two days later, both at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv. However, the saga will continue Thursday when the IFA delegation will travel to Luzerne, Switzerland, Thursday for a meeting with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The IFA are hoping that the CAS will overturn UEFA‚s decision and rule that the matches should be played in Israel. Following the decision, Hapoel and Bnei Yehuda named the Netherlands and the Ukraine as their alternative venues for their home matches. Hapoel said it will play its game in the Netherlands, either in Tilburg or Arnhem and Bnei Yehuda named the Olympiyskiy stadium in Kiev, Ukraine. UEFA also confirmed that on August 7, it will decide the location of the Champions League qualifying-round game between Maccabi Haifa and 2005 Champions League winner Liverpool, which is scheduled for later in August. Meanwhile, the voices of concern continue to be heard from Liverpool FC when on Wednesday striker Peter Crouch backed the view of his manager that the team shouldn't be forced to play the away leg of its Champions League qualifier in Israel. "Our manager has made it clear very clearly already what he feels, and we agree," he said. "We don't really want to be playing in Israel and the tie should be moved somewhere else." Despite not knowing where the match will be played the English international is not looking for any excuse. He stated: "We have to concentrate on getting the right result and go out and do our job wherever it is played." On August 7 UEFA will also determine the location of the second-round qualifying game between Betar Jerusalem and Romania's Dinamo Bucharest. The IFA's biggest fear is a return to the period between October 2001 and April 2004, when all of Israel's home games in FIFA and UEFA-sanctioned tournaments were played outside the country.