Maccabi Petah Tikva was deducted three points by the Israel Football Association’s disciplinary court on Tuesday night for its part in the brawl that followed last month’s 2-1 victory over Hapoel Haifa at the Moshava Stadium.
In TV footage of the incident, Hapoel Haifa’s Ali Khatib is clearly seen as throwing a punch at Maccabi’s Danny Preda before being head butted by Petah Tikva goalkeeping coach Ami Genish and allegedly being kicked while on the ground by Yigal Maman, who acted as a steward in the match and is a Petah Tikva fan close to the club’s ownership.
Petah Tikva was also fined NIS 25,000, with Haifa also being handed an identical fine, but no further punishment.
Khatib and Stefan Denkovic from Haifa and Petah Tikva’s Preda were all suspended for three matches for their roles, while Haifa’s Gal Arel was handed a two-match ban.
Genish, who together with Maman is set to stand trial in a criminal court for assaulting Khatib, was suspended from all activity for 18 months.
The three-point deduction sends Petah Tikva into the relegation zone, three points below Hapoel Beersheba and safety with five matches remaining in the season.
Petah Tikva will appeal the punishment, with owner Amos Luzon blaming the Haifa players for starting the melee.
“We saw time and again that it was the Hapoel Haifa players who were to blame for the fracas,” Luzon said as he exited the disciplinary court before hearing of the verdict. “I have apologized repeatedly and I think that the IFA prosecutor has exaggerated by requesting a point deduction. In my opinion he was trying to please the media.”
Luzon even went as far as saying during the hearing that his team is being treated like Dreyfus, but IFA judges Israel Shimoni and Giora Landau thought otherwise.
“Had the brawl ended with just players being involved the punishment would have been minor,” the judges wrote in their verdict. “But the severe assault committed by two Petah Tikva employees is an unprecedented event which requires an especially harsh punishment.”