The game that almost wasn't and shouldn't have been
The disarray resulting in a game that wasn't postponed reflects some of Israeli basketball's ills.
Last Friday, at 17:09, Shlomi Perry, the media chief of the League Administration, sent an urgent e-mail: "The league game between Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa is postponed to Tuesday … At the request of both teams, the Administration decided to postpone the game."
Less than an hour later, specifically 39 minutes, another e-mail went out: "Sorry, that was in error. The game between Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv will take place on Sunday. After revisiting the issue, the Administration decided not to postpone the game. We apologize for the mix-up."
Indeed. How exactly did this mix-up occur?
According to the League Administration's own procedures, for a game to be postponed, both clubs must agree. Two days earlier, on Wednesday, Maccabi Haifa asked Hapoel Tel Aviv to postpone the game. Hapoel thought about it and tried to reach the Maccabi Haifa vice president, Arnon Shiran, to convey its consent.
But Shiran didn't return the call, probably because Maccabi Haifa was busy preparing for the Cup Final. Eventually Hapoel Tel Aviv officials gave up and called the Administration directly to convey their consent. But Administration officials told them they'd missed the deadline for their response, and therefore their request was rejected – even though it wasn't Hapoel's request in the first place.
Hapoel officials thought the decision was final and began their own preparations for the game on Sunday, as planned. Then on Friday, they suddenly received the Administration's e-mail that the game was postponed after all.
Irked, the Hapoel officials explained to the officials that it just doesn't work like that, and that now they couldn't agree to postpone the game. Their fans had already made arrangements to attend, including taking a day off work, the basketball club elaborated. And thus the postponement that hadn't been and then was, was cancelled.
The specific reasons for this fiasco aren't that important. All parties demonstrated conduct that was amateurish at best, and all sides were at fault. Why did the Maccabi Haifa officials disappear after starting this ball rolling? Why did Hapoel agree, only to change its mind? Did Hapoel feel it had a chance to exploit Haifa's fatigue after the final, or was the club waiting for new acquisition Bryan Randel, and when it understood he wouldn't arrive on time, did it change its mind? And why didn't the League Administration officials deal with the matter properly?
The League Administration should have allowed the clubs that played in the State Cup Final to play their next league game on Monday – though in this case it wouldn't have worked out due to the soccer derby. On Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, once it was clear who the finalists were, the Administration should have announced that the game would be postponed, instead of ignoring the situation.
Some of Hapoel's arguments sound lame, but the club does have a point. Hapoel Tel Aviv is one of the few teams in the league that draws fans in droves to away games. Why does the League Administration think it can change everybody's plans on such short notice, 48 hours before a game? With all due respect, the League Administration should be considering the fans first, before all other considerations.