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European football’s governing body has announced that no UEFA competition matches will be played in Israel until further notice.
Israel’s national teams and club sides Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv, who are both competing in Europe, must find alternative venues outside the country to fulfil their UEFA fixtures.
The announcement comes amid the escalating Israel-Palestine conflict, which was sparked earlier this month by an attack on Israeli citizens by Hamas militants.
A UEFA statement read: “After a thorough evaluation of the current safety and security situation in the whole territory of Israel, the UEFA Executive Committee decided that no UEFA competition matches shall be played in Israel until further notice.
“The Israel Football Association and its clubs Maccabi Haifa FC and Maccabi Tel-Aviv have been requested to propose alternative venues/stadiums (which must comply with all applicable UEFA regulations) outside the territory of Israel for their home matches to be used for as long as this decision remains in force.”
Israel’s national team were due to stage Euro 2024 qualifiers against Switzerland and Romania – the two teams above them in Group I – in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem respectively next month, while Maccabi Haifa are playing in the Europa League and Maccabi Tel Aviv are in the Europa Conference League. A number of UEFA competition matches involving teams from Israel had already been postponed.
Earlier on Thursday, the Football Association said it will review whether to continue lighting the Wembley arch as an act of tribute following criticism over its response to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham accepted the “hurt” caused to the Jewish community by the FA’s decision not to light the arch in the colours of the Israeli flag for last Friday’s England friendly against Australia
But he set out the steps the FA had taken to respond in what it felt was the most appropriate way to “one of the most complex geopolitical conflicts on Earth”.
“This week has made us question whether we should light the arch and when, and we’ll be reviewing that in the coming weeks,” Bullingham said at the Leaders Week conference at Twickenham.
“I recognise that our decision caused hurt to the Jewish community who felt that we should have lit the arch, and that we should have shown stronger support for them.
“This was one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make, and the last thing we ever wanted to do in this situation was to add to the hurt.
“We aren’t asking for everyone to agree with our decision, but to understand how we reached it.
“It would be easy for football to ask why we’re the only sport being talked about in this way, particularly when rugby and cricket are in the middle of their World Cups.
“However, you have got to understand, and we understand, that the power of football means it will always be in the spotlight. And that’s just something we we have to accept.”
The FA was heavily criticised by a number of Jewish community groups last week, while Rabbi Alex Goldberg resigned from an FA faith in football group over its response. It was also criticised for not lighting the arch by Lucy Frazer, the Cabinet minister responsible for sport.
Bullingham set out the steps the FA had taken to reach the position it did.
“We first saw the acts of terror unfold on Saturday, October 7, along with the rest of the country. We immediately wrote to the Israeli FA to communicate our horror at what was taking place,” he said.
“We knew the situation could move very, very quickly, and was likely to escalate, so we wanted to have expert guidance, and more information available on what we should do because we had a match on Friday against Australia.
“We also spoke with our Australian colleagues and other stakeholders in the game to understand the views of players, clubs, and also of the leagues.
“It’s worth noting that the Australians had upcoming games against both Palestine and Lebanon, so their desire for neutrality was obviously incredibly strong.
We all felt then, and we all feel now, that football should stand for peace and humanity
“We then had a long board meeting on the Wednesday night and heard from experts on what is one of the most complicated geopolitical conflicts on Earth.
“They then left the room and we had a debate on working out what we should do.
“We all felt then, and we all feel now, that football should stand for peace and humanity and the wish to show compassion for all innocent victims of this terrible conflict.
“Our compassion and sympathy is clearly for families and children in particular.
“We then held a minute’s silence and wore black armbands recognises issuing a statement together with the Australian Federation to explain our actions, which many other sports then followed with identical wording, and our language was also very similar to that used by the United Nations.
“We were the only football body in Europe to have a minute’s silence, which was, as I said, for all innocent victims.”
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