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UK group appeals to Olympic Committee to allow Israeli team in South African tournament

The South Africa Rugby Union suddenly withdrew an invitation to the Tel Aviv Heat rugby team to play in its Mzansi Challenge tournament.

Tel Aviv Heat rugby team. Source: Twitter.
Tel Aviv Heat rugby team. Source: Twitter.

Three days before an international rugby tournament in South Africa, UK Lawyers for Israel has asked the International Olympic Committee to intervene to ensure that an Israeli team may participate.

UKLFI wrote on Tuesday to Girard Zappelli, IOC Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, pointing out that World Rugby (the international federation for rugby union) has known about the flagrant violation of its own regulations and the Olympic Charter since at least Feb. 7.

The IOC had previously declined to intervene on the grounds that World Rugby was assessing the position.

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI, said: “We understand why the International Olympic Committee would not wish to intervene if World Rugby were actively dealing with the matter. However, World Rugby to be dragging their feet until the exclusion of Tel Aviv Heat becomes a fait accompli. Any further delay will make it impossible for Tel Aviv Heat to participate. We hope that the IOC will make it clear that this is unacceptable.”

The South Africa Rugby Union withdrew on Feb. 3 an invitation to the Tel Aviv Heat rugby team to play in its Mzansi Challenge tournament.

Tel Aviv Heat’s participation had been planned for several months, and the invitation had been confirmed by SA Rugby’s Executive Council on two previous occasions before it was suddenly withdrawn without prior notice.

UK Lawyers for Israel has pointed out to the IOC that in these circumstances, “the IOC can and should now intervene in accordance with its mission and role as set out in Article 2 of the Olympic Charter.”

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