Basketball game against Israel to go ahead despite boycott by some Irish players

Basketball Ireland says it would face heavy fines and disqualification if it refused to take part in the tie

Basketball Ireland has insisted Ireland’s game with Israel will go ahead next month despite a number of squad members planning to boycott the tie due to the bombardment of Gaza.

Defending its decision to take part in the game, scheduled to be played in Latvia on February 8th, the sports body cited the prospect of heavy fines and potential future disqualifications for the Irish women’s team should it pull out.

Players who refuse to take part will not be punished and will remain on the panel for future games, the association said. Ireland is due to play Israel as part of qualifications for next year’s FIBA Women’s EuroBasket tournament.

The game was originally due to take place in Tel Aviv but was postponed following the attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7th last and the subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza.


At the time, Basketball Ireland refused to travel to Israel for the fixture due to security concerns. It was subsequently agreed it would take place in Riga, Latvia in February.

The Irish Times understands that roughly five first team members have indicated they will not travel for the game, citing the deaths of Palestinian civilians at the hands of the Israeli Defence Forces since October. Players have also expressed concern about their security should the game proceed.

The matter has been the subject of intensive internal discussions in recent weeks and some players have expressed significant frustration with Basketball Ireland’s decision to proceed with the tie.

Basketball Ireland has previously backed boycotts of Russia and Belarus following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. However, unlike in the case of Israel, these boycotts were instituted by FIBA, basketball’s world governing body.

“Basketball Ireland is obliged to fulfil this fixture, as failing to do so will result in a significant fine from FIBA Europe of €80,000. Should we fail to play the additional return fixture in November, Basketball Ireland would be subject to an additional fine of €100,000 ... and removal from the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 tournament,” a spokesman said.

He added that the Irish women’s team would also be banned from the 2027 EuroBasket qualifiers “resulting in an effective five-year ban from competing at international level for our senior women’s team”.

The body has “listened to and understands everyone’s views around this fixture, including those of our players and staff”, he added. As with all fixtures, he added, it will be up to individual players if they want to take part. Any player who opts not to travel will remain in contention for selection for future fixtures.

“As our players are not full-time professionals, they have to balance work, study and family commitments, among other things, in order to represent Ireland.”

International campaigns to exclude Israel from sporting competitions have met little success to date. The International Ice Hockey Federation had previously banned Israel from the upcoming under-20s world championship, citing security concerns, only to reverse the decision last week.

Basketball Ireland’s position has been strongly criticised by the Irish Sport for Palestine group, which is backed by several prominent sports figures including Keith Earls, James McClean and Brian Kerr.

The group held a protest on the issue outside the Women’s National Cup final at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin last Sunday.

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Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times