Sport, without spin, from around the world. Matthew Hall considers the issues behind the headlines and tells the stories that others don't.
Israel, Dubai, & Tennis: All about the money
Who would have guessed that tennis, of all sports, would reveal itself as a game for all people?
After all, we're talking about a game that champions exclusivity and individuals above all else and highlights a competitor's million-dollar earnings as part of official player profiles.
But, lo, the United Arab Emirates bans Shahar Peer, ranked 48th in the world, from playing in a tournament in Dubai because she's Israeli and tennis gets served up as a potential tool for international diplomacy.
Or does it?
There was – rightly – much ado about the UAE's absurd ban on Peer. The Women's Tennis Association was so outraged it threatened to pull the tournament from next year's calendar while the US-based cable network Tennis Channel pulled its coverage in protest.
As anyone at SBS in Australia will tell you, this was brave as a boutique network like Tennis Channel runs the risk of losing significant advertising revenue from dumping a tournament.
The Tennis Channel was not the only protest. The Wall Street Journal Europe announced it would drop its sponsorship of the tournament.
All this was limitless poor PR for Dubai, regardless of your view of Arab-Israeli politics. It was also something the UAE quickly realised as it fast granted another Israeli, Andy Ram, a visa for the same tournament.
A UAE government official explained that Ram's visa was "in line with the UAE's commitment to a policy of permitting any individual to take part in international sports, cultural and economic events or activities being held in the country, without any limitation being placed on participation by citizens of any member country of the United Nations."
Unless you're Shahar Peer but… whatever.
Israel-Arab politics mixing with sport is not new and it's not going to end with UAE granting Andy Ram a visa. After all, it's a reason why during the 1970s Israel competed in FIFA tournaments in Oceania and is now a member of UEFA rather than the geographically more appropriate Asian Football Confederation.
And don't ask the FIFA-recognised national team of Palestine about how difficult it is to travel to play an away game because you will have your ear bent out of shape for a week – about as long as players have to wait at the Israeli border.
The Peer issue has inflamed discussion around the world but here's a thought. Barclays, a global bank, and Sony Ericsson, a global technology company, sponsor the tournament.
Neither company has a view on this sensitive issue except to have no view. That's what happens with big money sponsorship deals.
Similarly, no player has withdrawn from the tournament in protest neither at the UAE's entry policy nor in support of Peer. Unless, of course, you count Roger Federer who has pulled out citing an injury.
Federer, who is Swiss, is a resident of Dubai and a representative of the Association of Tennis Professionals.
His back could not have hurt at a better time. Maybe he wanted to avoid a headache as well. Which neatly brings us back to tennis being all about the individual and money.
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