Change in management and in the stands

Dan Adler – half of Betar’s new ownership – on the long haul, what the club ‘should be celebrating,’ and this year’s expectations (not too high).

BETAR JERUSALEM’S new owners 311 (photo credit: John Solomon)
BETAR JERUSALEM’S new owners 311
(photo credit: John Solomon)
There has rarely been a dull moment at Betar Jerusalem over the past decade.
And if first impressions are anything to go by, the tenure of Dan Adler and Adam Levin is set to be equally exciting, if not considerably more stable.
Adler and Levin agreed to purchase the club from Arkadi Gaydamak on Thursday, ending the tycoon’s tumultuous six-year reign.
Betar chairman Itzik Kornfein had threatened that the club would have to go into liquidation last week, after he was unable to balance Jerusalem’s budget for the coming season following Gaydamak’s refusal to transfer the team funds.
However, Adler and Levin came along at just the right time to save the team from the brink, and in an interview with The Jerusalem Post Adler declared that he will remain at the club for many years to come.
“We are buying Betar because we believe that it not only has an incredibly rich history but an enormous amount of potential. We want to have the honor of unlocking that potential,” the American businessman said just hours after landing in Israel on Thursday evening.
“We pride ourselves on being people who do what they say they are going to do. We are jumping into this not because we want to jump in and jump out but because we are making a very long commitment.
And we believe it is actually going to be a long road ahead and an incredibly exciting and promising one.”
Adler was hesitant to set the bar too highly for the club in the near future, however.
“The club at the moment needs to spend a season getting back on track and stabilizing itself,” he said. “It needs to strengthen its foundation and its relationship with its community and go on to achieve the glory that it deserves.”
Adler, the founder and principal of new media company Media Eagles, is involved in a wide range of charitable and political causes, including serving on the board of directors of the Israel Policy Forum, an organization which is committed to both a strong US-Israel relationship and to Israel’s security in the context of a two-state solution.
While Levin’s political leanings are located far to the right of Adler’s, both have no intention of tolerating the racist elements among some Betar supporters.
“I’ve spent a lot of time engaging with the Palestinian community and I’m a big believer that there is a lot to learn around the table,” Adler said.
“In the very first phone call we had we raised that issue and said that is not something we want to be a part of. It is our absolute and committed goal to make sure that soon people will say, ‘Wasn’t that the club that once used to have an issue like that?’ “We want people to realize that the real spirit of Jerusalem is one of absolute diversity with an incredibly broad spectrum of people and views.
That is also what the spirit of sport is, and that’s what Betar ought to be celebrating.”
Adler admitted that neither he nor Levin were big soccer fans, but they both plan on getting involved in the club’s management, though not necessarily in on-field matters.
“I think I speak for both Adam and myself when I say that neither of us are rabid football fans,” said Adler, who plans to visit Israel regularly to attend matches. “We are going to be extremely involved in a lot of elements, but when it comes to the pitch, that is not going to be where we will spend our time.”
Adler and Levin intend to turn Betar into a triumphant team once more, but they don’t plan to splash out cash the way Gaydamak did.
“We are not going to spend overly aggressively,” said Adler, who is also expecting to add more investors to the ownership group in the near future. “We will spend reasonably and will do what is necessary to not only have a good shot but to have a very very good shot.
“We are not expecting to win the championship this season. We will be happy to finish anywhere in the top eight.
“But in the longer term, we would like to be a winning team.”
In the meantime, however, Adler and Levin have to decide how much they plan to invest for the coming season, a decision which will determine if coach David Amsalem remains at the helm, and if Jerusalem can significantly strengthen its squad.
“Betar first and foremost needs stability and calm,” Kornfein told the Post. “We were fighting for the club’s survival over the last three years, living in a lot of uncertainty and not being able to make any long term plan.
“A soccer club needs stability and a vision to succeed, and that is something we will now have to discus with the new owners. We will have to make some decisions regarding certain positions and we will make the best decisions for the club.”
There is still a long way to go before Betar can be considered as a legitimate championship contender once more.
However, Betar fans once again have reasons to smile, and considering where the club appeared to be headed last week, that is more than enough for Kornfein.
“Whenever you embark on a new course you are always filled with expectation, optimism and hope,” Kornfein said. “There is no doubt that these are two very serious people with plenty of experience in many fields.
“There are plenty of reasons for optimism.”