Barclays Bank shareholders’ visa ban revolt

Shahar Peer’s exclusion raises questions over Barclays’ sponsorship

Shahar Peer’s exclusion raises questions over Barclays’ sponsorship

Barclays’ sponsorship of a tennis tournament from which Israel’s top woman player was barred will be criticised at the bank’s annual meeting next week.

Some shareholders are angry that the bank continues to lend its name to the Dubai Tennis Championships, following the refusal of the United Arab Emirates to grant a visa to Shahar Peer to compete in the 2009 event in February. The decision prompted the Wall Street Journal Europe to withdraw its sponsorship and the Tennis Channel to cancel coverage.

Campaigners are working on a motion to put before the AGM in Westminster next Thursday, urging Barclays not to sponsor events where there is discrimination against participants. An online petition has attracted around 1,000 signatures.

Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue, who holds the Israel portfolio in the Chief Rabbi’s cabinet, is helping to co-ordinate the campaign.

“Barclays is trying to wriggle out of it,” he claimed. “We just want to make a point. There is such clear discrimination in the sporting world.”

London stockbroker and Barclays shareholder Alan Diamond has written to board member Professor Dame Sandra Dawson expressing disquiet at the bank’s position and highlighting the mounting international opposition.

“Regrettably, to their dying shame, Barclays failed to follow [the Tennis Channel and WSJE] in case they offended their new Gulf state investors,” he wrote.

He called on chief executive John Varley publicly to commit to the terms of the proposed motion.

A Barclays spokesman said the bank could not comment fully until after the meeting, but pointed out: “As sponsor, Barclays is not involved in, nor can we have influence over, how the host country seeks to apply its laws.

“We are an apolitical organisation with a proven commitment to equality and diversity across all our operations. Barclays believes all competitors should be free to participate in events for which they have qualified.”

Last updated: 9:54am, April 20 2009