The United Arab Emirates has refused to grant a visa to a female Israeli tennis player, preventing her from competing in the Sony Ericsson World Tennis Association Tour in Dubai, the WTA said in a statement Sunday.
Shahar Peer would have been the first Israeli athlete to participate in a professional sporting event in the UAE, CNN Sports Correspondent Pedro Pinto said.
The governing body of women’s tennis said it was “deeply disappointed” that Peer was being denied entry to the country hosting the tournament, but it did not cancel the competition.
The move runs counter to WTA policy, which says no player should be barred from competing in a tournament for which she has qualified.
Dubai could lose its WTA membership next year over the ban on Shahar, according to the governing body’s rules.
That would mean professional players could compete only in exhibition matches, the results of which would not count in pro rankings.
Dubai is a pretty big tournament. I’d like to see UAE lose their standing over this. And how about having some athletes show their support their fellow players? Roger? Rafa? It seems to me if one of those guys chose to pull out of the tournament over this, it would actually have demonstrable affect. I might also add, that Peer is a high-calibre player that deserves better than this.
Update: Here’s some more information from CNN.
Scott, meanwhile, confirmed: “Following various consultations, the Tour has decided to allow the tournament to continue to be played this week, pending further review by the Tour’s Board of Directors.
“Ms. Peer and her family are obviously extremely upset and disappointed by the decision of the UAE and its impact on her personally and professionally, and the Tour is reviewing appropriate remedies for Ms. Peer.”
Scott said Peer’s visa refusal has precedence: Last year an Israeli men’s doubles team was denied entry to Dubai. He said the Emirate cited security reasons following recent unrest in the region.
“At that time I was in Dubai. I made it clear to the authorities, the representatives of the government, that next year when our top players wanted to play this very prestigious tournament all of them had to be allowed to play,” Scott said.
“They had a year to work on it and solve it. We’ve spent time through the year discussing it. We were given assurances that it had gone to the highest levels of government,” Scott said.
“I was optimistic they would solve it. And we’ve made crystal clear to the government, to the tournament organizers that there could be grave repercussions not just for tennis in the UAE but sports beyond that.”
Looks like UAE called the WTA’s bluff. Now it remains to be seen whether the tour will actually stand by their words.