Premier League club Swansea City has admitted it considered cancelling a training trip to Dubai after striker Itay Shechter was refused entry because of the country’s ban on Israelis.
Swansea said last Wednesday’s trip had been “hastily arranged” and the state of the United Arab Emirates’ diplomatic relations with Israel was only brought to the attention of club officials “at a late stage”.
Mr Shechter, 25, instead flew to Israel, where he trained with former club Hapoel Tel Aviv and visited his family.
Swansea’s decision to go ahead with the trip without one of their players was heavily criticised by the Board of Deputies and anti-racism campaign Kick It Out. Board chief executive Jon Benjamin initially said the club’s actions were “disgraceful”.
Speaking before the club explained its reasons for going ahead, Mr Benjamin said: “By choosing to train in the UAE, Swansea City has tacitly accepted the discrimination against one of their players. This sends a terrible message at a time when racism and antisemitism are sadly real problems in world football.”
The Board will now write to the Football Association and leading clubs to make them aware of the community’s disappointment over the issue.
Mr Shechter’s absence was the latest in a number of similar cases. In 2009, Bolton Wanderers midfielder Tamir Cohen was left in Lancashire while his team-mates trained in Dubai. Yossi Benayoun and Yaniv Katan were in the same position when West Ham held a training camp in the UAE two years earlier.
Israel defender Tal Ben Haim has also previously been barred from entering Dubai, but he has now obtained British citizenship and used his new passport to enter the country on a Queens Park Rangers trip earlier this month.
Kick It Out said that Mr Shechter’s absence was at odds with the organisation’s “fundamental anti-discrimination message”. It also contacted Swansea to complain.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup discussed the problem with Mr Shechter and agreed that he should spend the time visiting Israel for the first time in five months. Mr Laudrup added: “Cancelling the trip was a possibility, but we had just made the arrangements and it was too late to change."