Heads of Israeli basketball, soccer warn lockdown could be sports’ ‘final nail’

The heads of Israel’s soccer and basketball leagues warn that the ongoing coronavirus lockdown risked becoming the “final nail” for Israel’s professional sports industry.

In a letter to the ministries of finance and health today, Shmuel Frankel, head of the Israeli Basketball Premier League, and Erez Halfon, head of the Israeli soccer league, complained that “Israel is the only country in Europe that has completely stopped all games and training.”

“We can understand the challenges you face and the context behind your decision,” they write, but add: “The consequence of this stoppage of all activity is dire for the professional sports world in Israel, the 5,000 families who earn their living from the industry [and were already hurt badly in the last lockdown], the income of the clubs, the public’s morale and the management of the sports in these conditions — exacerbating the flight of foreign players overseas, inequality between the clubs.

“Unlike other industries that can hit the ‘on’ switch after the lockdown, soccer and basketball require about two weeks just to get back in shape. If training isn’t allowed until October 4, we won’t be able to get back to operation until early November, a fact that could mean the final nail [in the coffin] for many sports.”

They called on the government to allow professional athletes to return to regular training, a step they said would dramatically shorten the amount of time required to return to public games once the lockdown ends.

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