KARACHI, June 6: The board of directors of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), which met at its headquarters in London recently, has upheld the referee’s and Davis Cup committee’s decision to award the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Zone group II second round tie to New Zealand against Pakistan played in Myanmar in April.
After Aqeel won the opener 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 and Aisam was 6-2, 3-6, 3-0 up in the second set, the referee awarded the tie to New Zealand citing ‘unplayable condition’.
The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has appealed to the ITF board of directors against the decision and has sent a high-powered delegation to London comprising legal adviser Majid Bashir, PTF advisers Ihtisham Qureshi and Khwaja Suhail who were joined by Aisam and Robert.
The decision was officially conveyed by ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti to PTF president on June 5.
It says: “Pakistan had the choice of ground, on a neutral ground, and was considered the home nation for the tie. The referee awarded the tie to New Zealand due to the failure of the PTF to provide a playable court in accordance with the ITF Davis Cup regulations 38 and 44.”
It further says that in rendering its decision, the Board had the benefit of extensive written materials that the PTF submitted.
In addition, the Board provided five PTF representatives with the opportunity to meet with and make moral representation to the Board. Moreover, members of the Board asked the PTF representatives a number of questions. Furthermore, the president of the New Zealand Tennis Federation participated in the oral discussions via phone and stated their position.
The basis of the Board’s decision is as follows.
First, the referee had the discretion under the Davis Cup regulations to determine whether the court was playable. Regulation 44 (d) provides that the “referee may call off a tie and award the victory to the visiting nation if the home nation fails to provide a playable court as per regulation 38.” Regulation 44 (e) provides that the “decision of the referee is final.”
Second, despite various representations from the PTF concerning the motives of the referee, the Board determined that the referee exercised his discretion in good faith.
Third, notwithstanding geographical distance and differences in time zones, the evidence indicates that the referee was in frequent communication with the office of the executive director with regard to his concern about the playability of the court.
Moreover, this concern was brought to the attention of the host nation. While another referee might have consulted differently or made a different determination, under regulations 44 and 38, he had the authority to make a final decision.
The Board’s decision cannot be based on the Board’s respect for the PTF or the efforts of the PTF to promote and grow tennis.
The Board appreciates the thoroughness of the appeal of the PTF and its desire to host Davis Cup ties in the future.
Based on the facts and the regulations, however, the Board has determined that the Davis Cup committee’s decision should stand.
It is unfortunate that the tie could not be completed. The ITF Board has directed the Davis Cup committee to revisit its regulations and determine whether any revisions are advisable or appropriate to address situations like this in future.
As per appendix C 1b) of the ITF constitution and article 17 of the Davis Cup regulations, the decision of the board of directors shall be final and binding on all parties.
Meanwhile, the PTF said it respects the ITF forum but will live with this grief of unfair decision of the referee for a long time to come. We still believe that the decision of referee was not correct, president of the PTF, Syed Kaleem Imam, said in a statement.
Expressing his dismay, he said the PTF members explained and clarify their version but the board’s decision seems pre-ordained.
“A wrong precedent was set as forfeiting a tie has never taken place in the Davis Cup history,” he said adding ITF looks that it had to stick to their referee decision though many ITF members have informally before and after admitted that it was an outrageous decision.
Quoting some ITF members who chose anonymity, the PTF chief said considerations like financial stake, reorganising hassle and their credibility, lobbying and influence of New Zealand and Australia existing in ITF quarters must have been reasons to uphold their Davis Cup committee decision.
Summing up, he said the PTF has fought its case to last hour and spend huge money on this endeavour to hold the tie on a neutral venue only to be shackled by whims of an individual who had ulterior motives.