Ori Allon has been making all the right noises and saying all the right
However, his true test has yet to arrive.
Jerusalem’s new 32-yearold owner has breathed new life into the floundering
club, raising the hopes of its disillusioned fans after years of
After all, how can you not fall for the charm of an
exceptional success story returning to his hometown hoping to help the team he
cheered on as a boy scale the summit of its sport.
But Allon is entering
In many ways, Hapoel Jerusalem is a sleeping giant
waiting to be awakened. But it is also a pressure cooker eternally on the
threshold of explosion and Allon wouldn’t be the first to leave the club scarred
should matters not work out as planned.
At the moment, however, that
couldn’t be further from his mind.
After purchasing a 90 percent stake in
the club last week, putting together a star-studded ownership group, including
New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire, advertising bigwig Eyal Chomsky and
American sports agent Arn Tellem, Allon is brimming with optimism.
measure of success for me will not be to win the championship,” he told The
after completing the deal.
“The measure of success will be
to see Malha full and then the new arena full with people who love the team and
come every week to have a good time. If we win the championship that would be
great, but that’s not the essence. The essence is that there will be a
team we will be proud of.”
Allon was born and raised in Israel, but left
for Australia after his IDF service. He made his fortune by selling hi-tech
start-ups to both Google and Twitter. In 2011, he sold his company, Julpan, to
Twitter, with Google acquiring his patented thesis work called
Allon, who earned his PhD in computer science at the University of
New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, recently also raised an oversubscribed $8
million seed round for his third company, Urban Compass, which is aimed at
making apartment hunting and local social networking easier.
never lost touch with Israel or Hapoel Jerusalem and the opportunity he was
waiting for finally arrived following Guma Aguiar’s disappearance at sea off the
coast of Florida a year ago.
Aguiar’s ownership stake in Hapoel was put
up for sale and the Allon group was awarded his shares by the administrator
general after promising to invest NIS 15 million in the club over the next three
“I see this as a very good way to give back to the city, to the
people and to the team which I supported as a child,” he explained. “You are
also giving back and you are also involved in something which is fun and gives
you positive energy. You can donate, and I do donate, but there’s a difference
when you are involved with something that is really exciting like this. This
isn’t a business you enter with the aim of making an exit.”
he believes far more can be done to strengthen Hapoel’s financial
“We need to set up a stable foundation that will last for
years,” he said.
“We need to see how we can build a team that will
succeed in Israel and in Europe in the next five years. How we can harness the
new arena and attract long-term sponsors. How we can make the most of new media.
The management needs to have an understanding and caring attitude towards the
fans and let them be involved. It is important that we aren’t a mess like other
“The club can already create nice amounts of money and with the
new arena and with success it will be able to create even more,” he
“Besides, we have announced that we will invest at least NIS 15
million over the next three years.”
Not only has Hapoel not managed to
win a title since lifting the State Cup in 2008, but it has failed to even reach
the league or cup final over the past five seasons.
However, Allon, who
says that his long-term aim is that Hapoel will be “a leading team in Israel and
Europe,” insisted that he will not be tempted to continue the fruitless chase of
“Results will not only be judged on the court. We will
judge success according to the club’s relationship with the fans and the
community,” he stated.
“Clearly, our position in the league and the cup
is important, but it is just as important, if not even more important, how the
team is being run and what moral standards it is setting.
“We aren’t just
interested in what will happen in the next year or two, but in where the team
will be in five and 10 years.”