Mzansi Challenge: More Heat coming SARU's way
UPDATE: Despite their stony silence, the South African Rugby Union is receiving increasing pressure from lobby groups over the axing of Tel Aviv Heat from the Mzansi Challenge.
SARU revealed earlier this month, that they have ‘withdrawn’ an invitation to Tel Aviv Heat to play in the new tournament, the Mzansi Challenge – which is scheduled to get underway on March 24.
SARU President Mark Alexander announced the withdrawal in a statement on Friday, February 3.
“We have listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups and have taken this decision to avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division, notwithstanding the fact that Israel Is a full member of World Rugby and the IOC,” Alexander said.
The saga has since taken a couple of intriguing twists – including the revelation that South African BDS Coalition threats are linked to the withdrawal of the invitation.
The withdrawal of the invitation by SARU came on the same day that the BDS Coalition issued a threatening statement.
The anti-Israel group – a self-proclaimed network of Palestine solidarity organisations and the South African affiliate to the Palestinian BDS National Committee – said “if this apartheid Israeli team [Tel Aviv Heat] comes to play in South Africa, SARU will have blood on its hands.”
The decision was met with loads of criticism and the issue has escalated resulting in ‘legal action’ taken by the South African Friends of Israel against the national body, as @rugby365com reported.
* (See related articles below …)
To date, SARU has not issued a single peep – subsequent to the February 3 statement from Alexander.
On Friday an Israeli coach, the South African Zionist Federation and UK Lawyers for Israel also joined the escalating bombardment of criticism against SARU.
The Israeli rugby coach – Joshua Schewitz, coach at Rishon LeZion Owls Club – submitted formal notification of their offences to SARU.
Schewitz previously lived in South Africa and played rugby at Wits University and Pirates club in Johannesburg.
SAZF and UKLFI assisted with the preparation of the notification, which lays out a series of contraventions of SARU’s constitution and regulations.
The participation of Tel Aviv Heat in the Mzansi Challenge had been planned for several months and the invitation had been confirmed by the Executive Council on two previous occasions, before it was suddenly withdrawn on February 3 without prior notice.
“It appears that the decision to exclude the Tel Aviv Heat team was taken on political grounds, pandering to the bigotry of unidentified ‘stakeholder groups’,” Schewitz said in a statement.
The South African Friends of Israel recently also submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act claim with SARU – attempting to get SARU to break their silence and reveal the real reasons for the sudden about turn.
SAFI said they fear undue political interference resulted in the withdrawal of the invitation.
The notification of offences as submitted by Schewitz identifies a number of SARU’s own Constitution and Disciplinary Regulations that were breached by its Executive Council.
For example, the objects specified in the Constitution include:
* pursuing policies and programmes….aimed at redressing imbalances of the past and creating a genuinely non-racial, non-sexist, non-political and democratic dispensation for rugby in South Africa;
* promoting inclusivity and diversity within the game;
* encouraging rugby … for all persons, irrespective of race, colour, creed or gender, and to eliminate any discrimination and inequality amongst players and officials alike.
According to a statement on Friday, the notification argues that the decision to exclude the Israeli team went against all of these objectives.
Schewitz has also pointed out that one of the adverse consequences of inserting illegitimate political considerations into the game of rugby has been to harm the careers of several young South African players, who are developing their talents at Tel Aviv Heat and will be denied the opportunity of playing in this competition if the rescinded invite is not rapidly revoked.
The statement says: According to World Rugby Regulations, which also apply to SARU, those responsible for the decision are guilty of misconduct, which can be ‘any conduct, behaviour, statements and/or practices that brings or has the potential to bring the Game and/or any of its constituent bodies, World Rugby into disrepute’.
This includes an act or conduct that is ‘discriminatory by reason of religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, colour or national or ethnic origin’.
The cancellation of the invitation to Tel Aviv Heat was plainly discriminatory by reason of national or ethnic origin and therefore classed as ‘Misconduct’ according to these Regulations.
Schewitz has asked SARU to initiate an enquiry into this matter or to refer it to a judicial officer or committee for adjudication.
UKLFI has separately written to SARU and World Rugby, drawing attention to the breaches of their regulations.
“Sports bodies have rules preventing discrimination and political interference,” Jonathan Turner of UKLFI said.
“It is in the interest of all engaged in sport that these rules are complied with.
“We welcome the public-spirited intervention of Schewitz, seeking to enforce them and hope that this will be achieved in time for Tel Aviv Heat to play in this competition.”
SAZF and UKLFI said they will communicate ‘any further action’ as the situation continues to develop, in the hope that SARU will be held accountable for its transgression of both local and international rugby codes of conduct.
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