Betar outraged over IFA punishment

Reigning champion had 2 points deducted, will start next season with a four-point deduction.

betar riot 224  (photo credit: Channel 10)
betar riot 224
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Betar Jerusalem received an unprecedented punishment on Thursday night for its fans' pitch invasion at Teddy Stadium on Sunday. The reigning champion had two points deducted from its tally this season, will start next season with a four-point deduction and was also given a technical 2-0 loss in Sunday's match against Maccabi Herzliya. Betar will also play its remaining three home matches of the season, against Bnei Yehuda, Maccabi Netanya and Bnei Sakhnin, in front of empty stands, as well as the first match at Teddy next season, and was handed a NIS 30,000 fine. Betar was leading 1-0 against Herzliya on Sunday when thousands of its fans stormed the field in the 87th minute of the match to celebrate their team closing in on a second straight league title. The IFA's tribunal also decided that the eastern stand at Teddy, from which the fans stormed the pitch, will be closed for a further two matches and that, should there be a recurrence of the incident, the club will be shut down for two matches. "Betar has a very severe disciplinary record," the Israel Football Association tribunal's verdict read. "A look at its past convictions starting from 2005 show that the club has more than 20 previous convictions related to fan trouble." Betar chairman Eli Arazi was outraged by the punishment. "This is a disproportionate punishment, considering what has happened over the previous 20 years. We will definitely appeal," Arazi said, referring to the numerous times fans of other clubs have entered the pitch to celebrate league titles. "They [the IFA tribunal] don't understand what they have done. Everybody should take note of what happens when Betar faces an IFA tribunal. "If they think that this is the way to change Betar then they have made a big mistake. They should look at the work Betar's current management has done with the crowd and they will understand that our way is better than their way." "This is outrageous," Betar defender Arik Benado told the club's Web site. "We are shocked with this unreasonable decision. A championship and relegation should only be decided on the field and not by tribunals. "It will take me a few days to come to terms with this strange decision. I understand that Betar will be appealing and I hope that the court will correct the punishment." Maccabi Herzliya spokesperson Benni Bakalo said: "Maccabi Herzliya is happy that the IFA tribunal has accepted its stance and has given Herzliya a technical victory." Despite the point deduction, Betar will still have no trouble clinching the league title this season, but the three points Herzliya have been awarded could have a significant bearing on the relegation battle. The tribunal's verdict means Ashdod SC and Bnei Yehuda are four and five points away from survival respectively and takes Herzliya all the way up to sixth position above Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Kfar Saba. "We were sad to hear of the tribunal's decision," Maccabi Tel Aviv chairman Aviv Bushinsky said. "This is an unsporting and outrageous decision, which awards a team which was three minutes from a loss with three points. "The outcome of the relegation battle should be decided on the field and nowhere else. I feel that this decision could encourage similar incidents in the future. The punishment should only be given to the guilty team and not to half of the league."