Peer's pain may have brought wider gain

Peer's struggle has not just brought the change of policy which will enable another Israeli, Andy Ram, to compete in Dubai Open.

updated: February 22, 2009 15:58 IST
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Shahar Peer's pain while fighting her exclusion from the UAE, and her grace in accepting the resolution of the controversy which has surrounded Israeli visas, may have brought long-lasting wider gains.

So says Larry Scott, the chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association, who has fought for redress for Peer after the player was denied a visa to be allowed to compete in last week's women's Dubai Open.

Scott emphasised that Peer's struggle has not just brought the change of policy which will enable another Israeli, Andy Ram, to compete in this week's men's Dubai Open, and not just brought an opportunity for her to earn future money and ranking points, but may help sport and culture in general.

"It could be a silver lining if somehow it represents a step forward in respect for the role of sport separate from politics or if it helps prevents sport being used as a political tool," Scott said.

"That's something to feel good about, but it will always be a shame that Shahar Peer had to suffer to achieve it." Scott says the UAE policy U-turn happened because they were surprised by the extent of the worldwide outcry.

"I think everyone was surprised by the extent of it," he said. "I am sure it would have taken them by surprise, the public outcry and the international dimension of the denial of Shahar Peer."

"It was snowballing and picking up steam. I am glad that this was recognised, and that the decision happened when it did. Because each day that was going by it was getting more and more intense.

"I started to get phone calls from international sporting bodies. Some of the academic institutions, political institutions and cultural institutions in the UAE were getting a lot of pressure from this as well.

"Because they would have cared about the same things we care about, and had the same assurances about Israeli participation. One international organization called for an international political boycott against the UAE.

"That was the sort of thing going on behind the scenes. I think that, and I am pleased that, this has changed things." Scott confirmed that from the moment the Dubai Open made a statement last Tuesday that security issues after the recent Gaza conflict had caused the visa refusal, the rules of the WTA Tour had been broken.

Tournaments have a responsibility to guarantee visas to all players of whatever nationality.

"The security issues are not a justifiable explanation from my standpoint, in that way," Scott added. "With the ATP we jointly commissioned an independent security review, which we both used, which indicated that Dubai was no worse than other cities we go to."