Maccabiah defends funding stance

January 8, 2009

The mother of a teenager who was abruptly told that she had been thrown off the Maccabiah GB basketball squad said this week that she has still not heard from the organisation, despite promises of a meeting. Ofra Azar-Freedman, a solicitor and divorcée from Hendon, said her 15-year-old daughter Deni had been bitterly disappointed to receive a letter from David Pinnick, the head of the Maccabiah organising committee, to tell her that she had been withdrawn from the girls’ basketball team for the 2009 Maccabiah Games in Israel. He said it was because Mrs Azar-Freedman had failed to pay the latest instalment of the £2,750 fee which each Maccabiah athlete has to pay in order to compete. But Martin Berliner, chairman of Maccabi Great Britain, defended the decision this week. The Maccabiah Games, he said, are “a ‘pay to play’ event, which is made clear by the event organisers in the UK to all appointed managers, coaches and participants from the very beginning”. He said that the price of participation had been “adversely impacted by exchange rate fluctuations, airport taxes and flight surcharges. “As a not-for-profit organisation and registered charity, Maccabi GB cannot be expected to fund athletes’ participation... athletes were also informed that failure to meet payment deadlines may result in their removal from a squad.” Mr Berliner added: “Some athletes have withdrawn due to the cost and to the increasingly difficult financial environment. This is a huge disappointment to us, but the realities are that we do not have the funds to take everyone who simply wants to go to the Games”. Though he was not prepared to comment on Deni’s case specifically, Mr Berliner did say that “of the 11 people who were removed from their squads on December 23, all had failed to meet their financial commitment, despite invoices and reminders, which they knew about and had accepted at the time of their selection”. But Mrs Azar-Freedman was still unhappy. She said: “I just never thought that the Maccabiah was only for rich kids.”

Last updated: 1:00pm, February 16 2009