Mac PT gets points-deduction deferred

IFA decision infuriates many; Betar clinches top flight by blanking Acre; State Cup semis set.

Maccabi Petah Tikva 370 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Maccabi Petah Tikva 370
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
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 week.
The court’s ruling was met with unprecedented outrage that could threaten to topple the current hierarchy of the local game.
With the 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 Monday night.
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.
Petah 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.
The IFA rejected Livnat’s claim and insisted that its courts remain completely independent.
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 out.
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.