Maccabi Haifa is scheduled to leave tomorrow afternoon for Thursday's UEFA Cup second round first leg clash with Valencia, but the general strike that is expected to start this morning, in the absence of a last minute reprieve, could leave the club stranded in Israel and facing a technical loss and perhaps even expulsion from the competition.
Despite promises made last week by Histadrut labor federation boss Amir Peretz that Haifa would be allowed to fly out of the country during a strike, things turned out yesterday to be far more complicated.
The Histadrut asked Haifa to bring forward its travel plans to avoid getting stuck in Israel. "I advise you again to bring forward Maccabi Haifa's flight to today [Sunday] because, unfortunately, if there is a strike there will be no flights to or from Israel, with all the resulting consequences. I am sorry that you insist on leaving on Tuesday," the Histdarut's trade union division chief Shlomo Shani wrote to Haifa chairman Jacob Shahar.
Shahar told Haaretz yesterday that financial constraints made it impossible for the club to change its flight schedule. Shahar said that flying yesterday would have cost Haifa some $80,000 as a result of taking a hotel for an extra day- and-a-half and chartering a plane without the fans who were due to travel with the team on Tuesday.
"If we cannot fly then we will inform UEFA that we are unable to attend the game," Shahar said. Shahar dismissed a suggestion raised by several of the club's fans to fly out of a military base as unrealistic.
UEFA regulations do not stipulate the protocol in case of a no show because of a strike. The closest incidence covered by the regulations is force majeure in clause 31. In the case of no show because of force majeure UEFA's Executive Committee is ordained to take a decision. A team that refuses to turn up for a game is automatically fined and expelled from the competition for a year.
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