Sinai Says: With purchase complete, the hard work begins for Hap J’lem owner Allon

However, his true test has yet to arrive.

HAPOEL JERUSALEM’S new owner Ori Allon 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
HAPOEL JERUSALEM’S new owner Ori Allon 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ori Allon has been making all the right noises and saying all the right things.
However, his true test has yet to arrive.
Hapoel Jerusalem’s new 32-yearold owner has breathed new life into the floundering club, raising the hopes of its disillusioned fans after years of heartbreak.
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 dangerous territory.
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.
“The measure of success for me will not be to win the championship,” he told The Jerusalem Post 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 Orion.
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.
But Allon 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 seasons.
“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.”
Nevertheless, he believes far more can be done to strengthen Hapoel’s financial stability.
“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 teams.
“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 added.
“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 fleeting success.
“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.”[email protected]