After months of uncertainty and flip-flopping that made a complete mockery of
Israeli soccer, the decision was made final on Tuesday.
al-Fahm will remain in the National League, local soccer’s second division,
while Hapoel Kfar Saba will play in the third division in 2013/14.
should never have been any discussion on the matter.
Kfar Saba finished
the National League in 16th and last place last season and was relegated to the
third division for the first time in the club’s history.
ended its campaign in 12th place and there would have been no issue had the club
been run in an anywhere near to acceptable manner.
However, Umm al-Fahm,
as well as many other National League clubs, conducts its business in a
disgraceful fashion, resulting in an embarrassment that has tarnished beyond
repair the league’s already blighted reputation.
The saga of who will be
the 16th team in the second division has filled hundreds of documents submitted
in numerous courts over recent months, but in the end the entire mess comes down
to Umm al-Fahm’s scandalous financial running.
The club didn’t pay its
players in a timely fashion last season and still owes some of them money, but
that is common practice in the National League and its demotion to the third
division was the consequence of an entirely different matter.
was relegated for failing to submit the requisite financial forms with the
Israel Football Association’s Budget Control Authority.
The club was
supposed to do so by July, but the matter dragged on for months as all involved
were hoping that there would be no need to relegate a team in
However, at the start of September, the IFA’s High Court turned
down Umm al-Fahm’s appeal and sent it to play in the third division in what
seemed like a final decision.
The league got underway that same day and
Kfar Saba was told it would take Umm al-Fahm’s place after submitting all the
Umm al-Fahm’s management pulled the race card and
claimed that the club was being unfairly targeted as it represents an Arab
They continued to fight the decision and turned to the District
Court in what seemed like a desperate move as civil courts very rarely intervene
in matters under the jurisdiction of the IFA.
However, judge Gideon Ginat
criticized the Budget Control Authority’s handling of the affair and ordered the
IFA to reassess its verdict.
All the while, National League matches were
taking place, with the games that should have involved either Umm al-Fahm or
Kfar Saba being postponed time and again.
Finally, last Wednesday, the
IFA’s High Court announced that Umm al-Fahm will be reinstated in the second
division in place of Kfar Saba after it had presented additional financial
Kfar Saba was outraged, with the club’s fans protesting
outside the IFA and during the Premier League match between Maccabi Tel Aviv and
Ironi Kiryat Shmona, while new owner Stav Shacham promised he would do whatever
it takes so that justice would be done.
However, he decided that unlike
Umm al-Fahm he will not turn to the District Court and accept the IFA’s final
decision, which was officially made on Tuesday.
Kfar Saba, which was
relegated last season largely due to the mismanagement of the club under the
previous ownership that saw it go into bankruptcy and be deducted nine points,
knew there was little hope of overturning the decision as the IFA refused to
postpone Umm al-Fahm’s match scheduled for Monday.
Due to its financial
difficulties, Umm al-Fahm failed to receive the IFA’s approval to use eight of
its players, leaving the team to play with three youth players in the encounter
against Maccabi Ahi Nazareth.
Coach Shimon Hadari didn’t even show up for
the match as he has yet to be paid his salary this season.
lost the match 4-1.
The scandal that is Maccabi Umm al-Fahm looks set to
cast a shadow on the league throughout the season, acting as a constant reminder
to the shambolic manner in which many of the second division’s clubs are
By the start of next season Kfar Saba may well be back in the
National League after gaining promotion while Umm al-Fahm could find itself
relegated to the third division on the field.
However, regardless of what
eventually unfolds, there will be no winners.
Umm al-Fahm, Kfar Saba and
the National League are all losers in this farce. But it is Israeli soccer as a
whole which has suffered the greatest blow, rightfully earning the public’s
ridicule and cementing even further its perception as being a sport run by goons
that no honest man in his right mind would want any part