Minister Regev: 'Teams That Don't Want to Play on Shabbat Won't Play on Shabbat'

No soccer matches will take place on Saturday unless economy minister issues Shabbat waivers.

Moti Milrod

No soccer matches will take place next Saturday unless Economy Minister Aryeh Deri issues a Shabbat employment permit, the Israel Football Association decided on Tuesday.

The decision follows a Labor Court ruling last week that soccer games on Shabbat constitute a criminal offense, unless the teams hold a permit excusing them from Shabbat restrictions.

The association's decision applies to all leagues and all age groups.

Association chairman Ofer Eini informed the meeting that he and Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev had agreed to establish a committee charged with finding a solution to the issue within 60 days.

Regev herself told a press conference after the association's decision that the issue was still far from resolution.

"At this stage, we have been unable to find a solution that will enable the league to begin its operations tomorrow," Regev said. "I have been in intensive consultations with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein about the issue in recent days."

Presenting her framework for a solution Regev said: "Teams that don't want to play on Shabbat won't play on Shabbat. And those that want to play will play.

"If more than seven players say that they don't want to play on Shabbat, it seems to me to be fair that the team won't play on Shabbat But the club needs to find a solution. Once there's a decision it has to be binding on all the teams as well as the soccer association and the directorate."

The minister added that "it wouldn't be right for this issue to be decided by legislation and regulation." She called on the attorney general "to find a way of opening the league and continuing the policy of non-enforcement for 60 days, during which time the association and the directorate will have to find a solution."

Labor Court judge Ariella Glizer made her decision to forbid Saturday soccer without permits after hundreds of religious players from the National League signed a petition refusing to be scheduled for games on Shabbat.

Under Israeli law, companies are barred from employing workers on the Sabbath unless they apply for a special waiver that details how many employees are permitted and why. Nearly 400 companies have received such a waiver.