After the International Tennis Federation made decisions on two upcoming Davis Cup ties to be played in embattled areas of the world last Thursday, it heard appeals from the two countries on the wrong ends of the decisions.
One country appealed successfully; the other had its appeal rejected.
In the first case, the ITF's Davis Cup committee, charged with handling the issue, had judged Kiev, Ukraine to be sufficiently safe to host Belgium in a World Group playoff tie to be played Sept. 12-14.
Belgium appealed and the ITF accepted that appeal, noting the original decision had not been unanimous and "that while the recent political unrest had occurred in eastern Ukraine, a disturbance in Kiev’s Independence Square as recently as last Thursday indicated that the security situation there was fluid."
Ukraine must now find a neutral venue to host the tie – and has five working days to do so. If it does not or cannot, the ITF can rule that the tie be held in Belgium or on neutral ground of its choosing.
Outspoken Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky wasted no time stating his case on Twitter.
Stakhovsky does have a point about the UEFA matches, some of which have been moved from Eastern Ukraine to Kiev to keep them out of potential harm's way. The number of people who attend them is exponentially bigger than the crowd for a Davis Cup tie. We're not sure ranting on Twitter is the right way to go, though.
When Stakhovsky refers to the CAS, he's talking about the Court of Arbitration for Sport, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. But the clock is ticking.
In the case of Israel, which was mandated to find a neutral venue to host its playoff tie against Argentina in the original decision, the ITF rejected Israel's appeal; the status quo will remain.
Israel has until Thursday to file the paperwork confirming a neutral venue. Otherwise, the ITF can choose for them, or decide the tie will be played in Argentina. They have already made inquiries in Argentina to that end.
The quote from ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti, per the press release:
“It is always a very difficult decision for the ITF to take away choice of ground in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas (note the inclusion of the event sponsor there; good work). The competition was founded on the principles of better understanding among nations and we believe it has done a good job in fostering this over 114 years. However, the safety of players, officials and spectators has to take priority and the Board believed that it was not prudent to hold ties in Ukraine or Israel because of political unrest in these countries at the present time and for the foreseeable future.”
The ties will be played in less than a month and it's a fairly big operation, requiring an arena of a certain size, multiple logistical issues and the assurance that the hosts meet all of the many and varied requirements the ITF sets re quality of hotel rooms (including the ones for their distinguished guests), facilities, and the like.
Time is running short.
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- Sergiy Stakhovsky