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Israeli basketball to resume play on June 20 without fans

League announces shortened season; foreign players to be required to quarantine for 2 weeks after arriving in country

The Hapoel Jerusalem and Ironi Nahariya teams play in Tel Aviv during the final of the Israeli Basketball State Cup on February 13, 2020. (Flash90)
The Hapoel Jerusalem and Ironi Nahariya teams play in Tel Aviv during the final of the Israeli Basketball State Cup on February 13, 2020. (Flash90)

The Israeli Basketball Premier League announced Friday that it will resume games on June 20 after being forced to halt play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Games will be held without crowds until further notice, the league said, and the season will be shortened with a condensed playoff schedule ending with a final four championship tournament during the last week of of July.

The league administration, which approved restarting the season, will finalize a Health Ministry-approved plan to resume play in the coming days, along with the new schedule.

The announcement came after the soccer league announced Thursday it would resume on May 30, also without fans in stadiums.

A statement from the league said foreign players will return to Israel by May 17 and will be required to quarantine for two weeks in accordance with emergency directives requiring all travelers arriving from overseas to be isolated for 14 days. Team practices are scheduled to begin June 1.

It also said the decision to resume games was made “with the expectation and assumption that Toto-Winner [Israel Sports Betting Board] and the Finance Ministry will compensate the teams for the damage caused to them” as a result of lost revenues due to the stoppage of games.

“This is a happy day for basketball,” Shmuel Frankel, chairman of the board for the league administration, said during a press conference. “We always wanted [to resume play].”

Frankel described the meeting of the board of directors, which includes team chairmen and representatives of the players union, as “emotional” due to the uncertainty surrounding the resumption of play.

“There are a lot of question marks,” he said, such as whether foreign players will come back to Israel and if teams will lose money.

Along with other sports leagues, the Basketball Premier League suspended games in mid-March, after the Culture and Sports Ministry ordered a halt to games as Israel began introducing increasingly far-reaching restrictions to contain the coronavirus.

With the number of new daily cases dropping below 200 for nearly two weeks, Israel has begun rolling back limitations on movement, economic activity and gatherings, including sporting events.

As of Friday evening, there have been 16,436 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel and 245 deaths.

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