Lessons from lawn bowls and Malaysia
Once again the world of sport has been infiltrated by politics, resulting in discrimination against a tennis player simply because of her country of origin. The World Tennis Association is being tested in its reaction, and more so in its action in upholding the basic principles of sport, where freedom of participation is a privilege granted without any prejudices whatsoever.
It is heartening to read of the players' support for Shahar Peer, support which should spread far beyond the immediate boundaries of the United Arab Emirates. It is also encouraging to note the remarks of the WTA chief executive, Larry Scott, that the "WTA believes very strongly and has a clear rule and policy that no host country should deny a player the right to compete in a tournament for which he has qualified." He has also intimated strongly that under similar circumstances the UAE risks losing next year's tournament.
If Scott is hesitating, he should look at recent precedents for guidance. A comparison of events which occurred under the flag of the World Controlling Body of lawn bowls is worth noting.
This sporting association, to which 45 countries are affiliated, faced a similar situation when the quadrennial women's world bowls championships were scheduled to take place in Malaysia in 2004. The Malaysian government imposed severe restrictions on the Israeli squad, and the world ruling body made an immediate, unanimous decision to move the games to England, which undertook to hold the tournament at the eleventh hour.
In 2007 the European Union of Lawn Bowls of 14 nations, to which Israel is affiliated, unanimously turned down an invitation by Malaysia to host a tournament with Israel's exclusion.
These are examples to be proud of. It is sincerely hoped that declared intentions not remain mere words, as so often happen, and that the courage of convictions will not be wanting. If the WTA wants to do the right thing it will follow suit, and not falter and compromise.