UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Irish match officials crack down on anti-Israel protests at Ireland Israel Football Match

Match officials cracked down on anti-Israel protestors following a warning letter from the Ireland Israel Alliance, assisted by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI).

Pro-Palestinian protestors arriving at the Ireland/Israel under 21 football match which took place on Friday 23 September, were surprised when their keffiyahs, flyers and flags were confiscated at the match entrance.

Harry McCann tweeted:  “Security are confiscating flyers and Palestinian flags at Tallaght Stadium tonight on the way into the U21 European Championship playoff between Ireland and Israel.”

ZaZaFl tweeted: “Disgraceful that @FAIreland confiscated information leaflets, made people take off kuffiyehs & refused entry to a fan with the top of an FC Palestina jersey visible until he swapped coats with a friend at last night’s Ireland U21s match against apartheid Israel. Free expression?”

Jackie Goodall of the Ireland Israel Alliance had written to Jonathan Hill, Chief Executive of  the Football Association of Ireland, alerting him to a planned protest by the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC).  This pro-Palestinian group had organised an anti-Israel protest at the football stadium, calling for Israel to be expelled from the Football Association and FIFA.

Goodall alerted Mr Hill to the tweet from the IPSC, calling for people to join a protest against Israel at the football match.  She wrote: “the IPSC wants to turn an event of sporting excellence involving a multi-ethnic Israeli side, bridging two nations, into an opportunity for rancour and division.”

Goodall, with the assistance of UKLFI,  warned the Football Association of Ireland that the Ireland/Israel match was a UEFA match, held under UEFA rules, so host clubs and associations are liable for incidents of any kind and may be subject to disciplinary measures and directives unless they can prove that they have not been negligent in any way in the organisation of the match.

In particular, Goodall pointed out that host clubs and national associations are responsible for order and security both inside and around the stadium before, during and after matches.

They are also liable for inappropriate behaviour on the part of their supporters including:

  1. the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit a provocative message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly provocative messages that are of a political, ideological, religious or offensive nature;

  2. any other kind of crowd disturbance (such as lack of order or discipline) observed inside or around the stadium before, during or after the match.

There was a demonstration outside the stadium,  although this was reported to be well away from the precinct and the match itself was not disrupted.

Thanks to the security measures taken at the match, the game went off peacefully, resulting in a 1-1 draw.

The Ireland Israel Alliance tweeted:  “1-1 seems like a fair result in the very exciting Under 21 playoff game between Ireland and Israel. It was played in a great atmosphere. Onwards to the 2nd leg in Tel Aviv next week!”

Sam Green, Director of UKLFI commented: “This shows what can be done to keep sport focused on what’s on the pitch, not dragging  politics in to spoil the fans experience.

UKLFI was able to advise The Irish Israel Alliance on rules and strategy, and their action secured this outcome. This shows how much more effective organisations with shared goals are when they work together.

It is also an excellent example of how sporting authorities should act when their events are to be used as a platform for others’ aims.

Other clubs, associations, federations need to understand that failing to uphold the rules is shortsighted, undermines and demeans their sport and lets down fans.”