The JC: Sweden denies Israeli safety concerns over Davis Cup fixture

‘Potent’ antisemitism forced relocation of Davis Cup match from Båstad to Stockholm, commentator says

Sweden’s tennis federation has come under fire for relegating a Davis Cup match with Israel to another venue amid fears over the players’ security in an open-air venue.

The September fixture will take place in a Stockholm hall rather than in Båstad, which regularly hosts the Swedish Open, in the south of the country.

Aron Verständig, president of Stockholm’s Jewish Community, said it was “upsetting that one has chosen to discriminate against Israel” while a newspaper commetator said the federation had caved into “potent antisemitism in our country”.

But a federation spokesperson denied claims that the match had been moved because the Israeli players’ safety could not be guaranteed in Båstad.

Henrik Odervall, tournament director at the Swedish Tennis Federation, told the JC: “We have two arenas in Sweden where we can host tennis matches with an audience: an open-air stadium in Båstad and an indoor one in Stockholm’s Royal Tennis Hall.

“On the basis of several parameters, including the weather, we decided to hold September’s event in the capital, just like we did when we last hosted a Davis Cup match between Sweden and Portugal in April last year.”

But Mr Odervall’s statement is at odds with a report by Swedish newspaper Barometern, which cited an anonymous source at the Swedish Tennis Federation as saying that security reasons determined the decision to stage the match in Stockholm.

The relocation comes on the tenth anniversary of the last Davis Cup meeting between Israel and Sweden, a controversial fixture in Malmö.

Ilmar Reepalu, the city’s mayor at the time, ordered the match be played behind closed doors after hundreds took to the streets to protest under the slogan “stop the match”. The ensuing riots led to accusations of antisemitism in the Sweden. The Swedish Tennis Federation at the time criticised Malmö’s local government for politicising a sports event.

Sofia Nerbrand, a columnist who last year received the City of Malmö’s Human Rights Award for her involvement in the city’s “kippah walks” against antisemitism, said that on this occasion the federation was at fault.

“The fact that antisemitism is so potent that it stops Jews from doing sports at an illustrious arena is simply a failure for our country,” she wrote in a piece for the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

Mr Verständig, the Stockholm community leader, said that “allowing Israel to play in Båstad would have sent an important signal”, adding it “would have been important to allow Israel to play on the same terms as other countries”.

He would not describe the Swedish Tennis Federation’s actions as antisemitic, but suggested the organisaiton has “bowed to the antisemites”.

A federation spokesman insisted what happened in 2009 was an isolated incident.

“The security aspect is always a factor when organising any kind of public event in today’s society,” he said, “and we always involve the police in making security assessments but so far they have not expressed any extraordinary requirements ahead of this event.”

He insisted this year’s matches, scheduled to take place on September 13 and 14, will be open to the public.

After the 2009 riots, the International Tennis Federation banned Malmö from hosting Davis Cup matches for five years and warned Sweden that it would suffer an automatic loss of choice of ground for the next tie were a similar situation to occur in the future.