Israeli soccer was plunged into turmoil on Sunday after the Football
Association’s High Court decided to partially accept Maccabi Petah Tikva’s
appeal and delay to next season the three-point deduction it was handed last
The court’s ruling was met with unprecedented outrage that could
threaten to topple the current hierarchy of the local game.
decision, Petah Tikva climbed out of the relegation zone at the expense of
Hapoel Beersheba, with the two teams set to face off in Premier League action on
In protest, Beersheba owner Alona Barkat resigned from her
position in the IFA’s secretariat and together with the bosses of Hapoel Haifa,
Yoav Katz, and Ashdod SC, Jacky Ben-Zaken, plans to approach the State
Comptroller demanding he looks into the conduct of the IFA courts.
Tikva was deducted three points and fined NIS 25,000 by the disciplinary court
last Tuesday for its part in the brawl that followed last month’s 2-1 victory
over Hapoel Haifa at the Moshava Stadium.
IFA judges Israel Shimoni and
Giora Landau explained that they decided to hand Petah Tikva an especially
severe punishment due to the fact that it was two of its employees, goalkeeping
coach Ami Genish and Yigal Maman, a fan who worked as a steward in the match,
who assaulted Haifa player Ali Khatib.
However, the High Court stated in
its ruling on Sunday that the battle against relegation should be decided on the
field rather than in the court room, while also punishing Petah Tikva to host
its next home match away from the Moshava Stadium.
“The local game has
hit an unprecedented low,” an infuriated Barkat said.
“I love Israeli
soccer and I invest my soul and money in it and I can’t ignore such an
injustice. We need to transform the system.”
Former Israel international
Eyal Berkovic and supporter groups from across the league will hold a protest
outside IFA headquarters at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Monday evening,
with Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat also taking the opportunity to
once more attack IFA chairman Avi Luzon, who used to run Petah Tikva and is the
brother of owner Amos Luzon.
“The man at the top of the IFA must
disconnect himself from any conflict of interests. That is the only way
the public will regain its trust in the IFA,” Livnat said.
rejected Livnat’s claim and insisted that its courts remain completely
Despite the decision, Betar Jerusalem effectively clinched
another season of top-flight soccer on Sunday, beating Hapoel Acre 1-0 at Teddy
Stadium for its sixth straight win.
Avi Rikan scored the only goal of the
match in the 43rd minute with an accurate left-footed volley from 10 meters
Betar, which dominated the encounter and deserved to triumph by a
far greater margin, guaranteed itself at least a nine-point margin from the
relegation zone (even after Monday’s match) with only four more games remaining
in the season.
In other soccer news, Hapoel Tel Aviv and Maccabi Haifa
were kept apart in the State Cup semifinal draw on Sunday, meaning a repeat of
last season’s final remains on the cards.
Tel Aviv will face Hapoel Ramat
Hasharon while Haifa will play Ashdod SC in the semis which will take place at
National Stadium in Ramat Gan on May 2.