Sports Shorts

The Israel Football Association has rejected Beitar Jerusalem's appeal against a one-point deduction imposed after fans of the Israeli soccer champion chanted racist epithets during a Premier League game against Maccabi Petah Tikva. In addition to the one-point deduction, Beitar was ordered to play its next home game - against Maccabi Tel Aviv - behind closed doors. According to the club, the punishment is tantamount to a fine of NIS 500,000. (Haaretz Sports Staff)

Betar Jerusalem will not be eligible to play in European competition next season, after the sport's governing body in Europe, UEFA, decided yesterday that the outgoing Israeli champion had failed to meet its commitments to the organization. As a result, it was decided that Betar would not be granted a license to play in the UEFA Cup, if it wins the State Cup. According to sports Web site One, Betar failed to supply UEFA with the financial assurances it was seeking in time, and now has 10 days to appeal the decision. (Haaretz Sports Staff)

Mercedes motor sport director Norbert Haug said yesterday that he did not expect the McLaren-Mercedes team to be much better in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix. "I do not have the impression that there has been a dramatic improvement. If I say we will struggle, I am not being a prophet of doom," he said ahead of the first race on European soil. The team failed to impress during recent tests in Spain, as both McLaren drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, failed to keep up with the leaders. Haug said that Hamilton's impressive fourth place in Bahrain should not be overestimated. The defending champion has just nine points in the standings and is currently seventh. (DPA)

Israel's Shahar Peer cruised yesterday into the second round of the Estoril Open in Portugal, beating local girl Michelle Larcher de Brito in three sets. Cheered on by a highly partisan home crowd, Brito edged the first set 6-4, but Peer - who is seeded seventh for the tournament - showed her skill in the next two sets and didn't lose another game. Next up for Peer is Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic, who beat Spain's Silvia Soler Espinosa in straight sets. (Haaretz Sports Staff)

World No. 59 Dudi Sela strolled into the second round of the $100,000 Ramat Hasharon Challenger, ousting countryman Noam Okun 6-1, 6-1. Next up for Israel's leading male player is Australia's Brendan Klein. Harel Levy, meanwhile, also progressed, beating fourth seed Michael Berrer 6-4, 6-4. (Rami Hipsh)

England will bid to stage the Rugby World Cup in 2015, the Rugby Football Union said in a statement yesterday. The RFU said on its Web site that it would present the government-backed proposal to the International Rugby Board council in Dublin on May 13. England, Italy, Japan and South Africa are all in contention to stage the tournament, following the withdrawal of Australia's proposed bid last month and Ireland and Scotland's withdrawal from their original joint bid with England and Wales last week. The IRB will make a decision on the host nation for the 2015 and 2019 tournaments on July 28. (Reuters)

Despite leading his team back into the Premier League, Hapoel Be'er Sheva coach Guy Levy announced yesterday that he would not be continuing with the club next season. Levy told reporters that he had decided to leave the club because of "differences of opinion with the owners as to the direction we should be taking in the future." Owner Alona Barkat said that she accepted Levy's resignation and wished him well in the future. The two leading candidates to replace Levy are Nitzan Shirazi and Nir Klinger, who currently coaches Cypriot team Paphos. (Haviv Ben David)

The race to host the 2016 Olympics has been hit by a spying scandal: Brazilian candidate city Rio de Janeiro accused Spain of spying after an employee of the Madrid bid committee applied for - and was granted - accreditation as a journalist during the International Olympic Committee's visit to Brazil. Sources within the Rio bid committee said that the person's application contained inaccuracies, and they now believe that the man was spying for the Madrid bid committee. (DPA)