It’s confirmed: A last-ditch attempt to move the Davis Cup tie to Stockholm has failed, meaning there will be no fans allowed in the stadium for the Sweden vs. Israel Davis Cup tie next week in Malmo, Sweden. Local officials expect up to 12,000 people to gather outside the stadium for a “Stop the Match” protest that they fear could turn violent. So the city is choosing to keep the tie closed to spectators despite safety assurances from police and pressure from both the Swedish Tennis Association and the ITF.
ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti has said: “We do not agree with the decision by the Malmo authorities to exclude the public, and even at this late date, maintain our request that the decision not to allow spectators be reconsidered.”
Andy Ram, the Israeli tennis player who was at the center of the Dubai visa controversy last week also protested the decision: “When I heard about the decision playing without a crowd, that freaked me out. This is really something bad I think, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
This is the second time in Davis Cup history that a tie will be closed to spectators in Sweden. The first was in 1975, when Sweden played Chile in Bastad two years after a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet against the elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende.
Here’s the full story from Yahoo Sports:
MALMO, Sweden (AP)—About 1,000 police from seven counties will handle security for Sweden’s Davis Cup match against Israel next week amid fears that protests could turn violent.
Police commissioner Hakan Jarborg Eriksson said Thursday that officials expect a “Stop the Match” protest, formed after Israel’s offensive in Gaza started in December, to be relatively calm. But there are fears that protests from small, radical groups could turn violent, he said.
The first-round World Group match will be played March 6-8 without fans at the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall. Only teams, officials, some sponsors and journalists will be allowed to enter the hall.
Organizers of a “Stop the Match” campaign expect 8,000 to 12,000 people will demonstrate on March 7 before the Davis Cup doubles match.
“They have said that they want to stop the match at all costs,” Jarborg Eriksson told Swedish news agency TT.
Left-wing groups, human rights organizations and pro-Palestinian groups also plan to demonstrate during the best-of-five series.
The Israeli team is scheduled to arrive Sunday. Sweden’s squad is practicing in Stockholm this weekend before heading to Malmo.
This week in Dubai, Andy Ram of Israel played in a tennis tournament under heavy security and body guards. Ram was granted a visa by the government after Shahar Peer of Israel was denied a visa for the women’s tournament because of security concerns.
Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, has a left-leaning local government and a large Muslim minority. Its leaders have strongly criticized Israel over the Gaza invasion, and some have called for the Davis Cup match to be dropped altogether.
Malmo officials announced last week that the match played behind closed doors after a vote on the issue in the city’s recreational committee. The committee said it could not guarantee security for the fans.
It will be the second time a Davis Cup match is played in an empty arena in Sweden. In 1975, Sweden played Chile in Bastad without spectators. That was two years after a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet against the elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende.
A seven-time Davis Cup champion, Sweden also played Israel last year in the first round and won 3-2 near Tel Aviv.
I understand and encourage the right of people to protest, but what about the players’ and fans’ rights to enjoy Davis Cup? This whole situation is twisted and sad – and a bad example of political grandstanding.