Priti Patel 'cancels' visas of Belarus basketball team ahead of Newcastle game over Russia attacks

Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Priti Patel has cancelled the visas of the Belarus men's basketball team who were due to play in Newcastle.

The Home Secretary tweeted about the decision on Saturday, February 26, saying the UK would not welcome sports teams from countries "complicit" in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Her tweet came following an announcement by the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) on Friday night that the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifier between Great Britain and Belarus at the Vertu Motors Arena on Monday had been postponed due to the "current security situation".

Ms Patel's tweet read: "I have cancelled the visas of the Belarusian Men's Basketball Team who were due to play in Newcastle tomorrow night.

"The UK will not welcome the national sports teams of those countries who are complicit in Putin's unprovoked and illegal invasion of #Ukraine."

In her tweet, Ms Patel indicated that the teams were due to play on Sunday rather than Monday night.

The PA news agency said it understood that the Belarus team was not planning to travel to the UK after Friday's announcement that the game was off.

Great Britain and Belarus had been due to play two matches - one in Minsk on Friday and the second in Newcastle on Monday.

Fiba first announced on Thursday that the Minsk game would be postponed before confirming the next day that the Newcastle game would also not go ahead.

The game between Great Britain and Belarus was due to be held at the Vertu Motors Arena in Newcastle Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Toni Minichiello, interim chair of the British Basketball Federation (BBF), said: "We thank Fiba for all their help and for understanding our concerns about travelling to Minsk.

"I would also wish to take the opportunity thank the BBF Board, GB Team Staff and Players for coming together and presenting a unified position.

"The safety of our players and staff are and will always be our primary focus."

Alongside Monday's game in Newcastle, Fiba also announced that a fixture between the Netherlands and Russia, set to take place on Sunday in the Dutch city of Almere, would also be postponed.

In a statement, Fiba said: "The decision is based on the evaluation of the current security situation.

"Fiba is closely monitoring the security situation in Europe, as players' and officials' safety remain Fiba's primary concern."

New dates for the sports fixtures have not been set.

The Home Office has been contacted by ITV News Tyne Tees for comment.