Soccer / UEFA Keeping Wary Eye on 'Situation'

"UEFA will not take any hasty steps," William Gaillard, director of communications at European soccer's governing body, told Haaretz yesterday with regard to Israeli teams hosting European club competition matches, in light of the current security situation.

"In principle, UEFA is scheduled to discuss the situation in Israel in less than two weeks' time, and in view of current events, it would not be an exaggeration to say that UEFA will not ease current guidelines."

At present Israeli teams can only host matches in the Tel Aviv area. This condition was imposed in April, 2004, when UEFA lifted a two-and-a-half-year ban on local clubs hosting matches anywhere in Israel. That ban was first put into effect in 2002 after a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.

Asked whether Israel could have to cope with a new prohibition on local matches in light of the present situation, Gaillard responded: "I have no means of evaluating this, but clearly it depends on the situation. Everybody is seeing the news and any scenario is possible."

Gaillard's comments contradicted optimistic remarks that came yesterday from Israel Football Association officials.

IFA general manager Haim Tzimmer was furious about reports that Israeli teams could once again find themselves hosting matches overseas. "There has been no discussion by UEFA institutions with regard to the situation in Israel," he said. "The matches will go on as planned as has already been agreed with UEFA. Peter Fosk, the Czech observer at Maccabi Petah Tikva's Intertoto match against Ethnikos of Cyprus [on Saturday], wrote in his report to UEFA that the security situation here is excellent. Fosk is a senior UEFA official and that can only help us."

Only a month-and-a-half ago, Israeli clubs looked to be set to be able to host anywhere in the country after a successful visit by a UEFA committee. The national stadium in Ramat Gan was shortlisted to host the UEFA Cup final in either 2008 or 2009.