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ITF slaps Sweden with big fine for barring fans

THE Swedish tennis federation has been fined US$25,000 and Malmo has been banned from hosting Davis Cup matches for five years after the city's authorities opted to play last month's tie with Israel behind closed doors.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) also said Sweden would have to pay an additional US$15,000, which it would have received in gate receipts had the March 6-8 match been open to spectators. The safety of the Israeli team in Malmo, a city with a large Muslim community, prompted the local authorities to act.

"The (Davis Cup) committee strongly condemned the decision by the city government of Malmo to refuse to allow spectators to attend the matches and the resultant fact the Swedish Tennis Association played the tie behind closed doors," the committee said in a statement.

Sweden is planning to appeal against the decision because of the security threat that existed around the tie, which Israel won 3-2 to reach the quarterfinals.

"The fact that over 1,000 police officers from the entire country had been commanded to Malmo and that equipment and cars had been borrowed from Denmark speaks for itself," general secretary Henrik Kallen said.

ITF said the security measures in place would have allowed the match to go ahead as usual even though more than 6,000 demonstrators protested against Israel's presence in the competition.

Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram called the decision to bar fans "idiotic" and said it was worse than a move by United Arab Emirates to deny entry to his compatriot Shahar Peer for a women's tournament in Dubai in February.

"Sweden's actions are way more degrading than Dubai's," Ram said at the time. "Dubai is an Arab state we don't have any ties to. That they, right after a war, find it hard to accept an Israeli I can understand. But with Sweden we have normal ties."


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