Soccer: Luzon denies bribery allegations

Mac Petah Tikva president and brother, the IFA chairman, allegedly transferred Beitar Nes Tubruk's registration in exchange for benefits.

avi luzon 88 (photo credit: )
avi luzon 88
(photo credit: )
Israel Football Association Chairman Avi Luzon on Tuesday denied any involvement in a bribery scandal after it was revealed that he was one of the subjects of a year-long investigation by the police's National Fraud Unit. The details of the investigation into Luzon and his brother, Maccabi Petah Tikva President Amos Luzon, were brought to light late on Monday night after a court-imposed media ban was lifted. According to suspicions, Amos Luzon helped the amateur team Betar Nes Tubruk move soccer districts ahead of the 2007/08 season in exchange for a promise by the team's owners to vote for Avi to remain chairman of the IFA. It has been alleged that Amos pledged to ask Avi's help in the matter. However Avi Luzon stressed that there is no way he could have given the club permission to change districts. "I would like to make completely clear that in my job as IFA chairman I have never been involved in transferring clubs from district to district," Luzon said on Tuesday. "As IFA chairman and as a public figure I act with transparency, reliability and responsibility, not just because of the rules and procedures, but because of my personal conscious and values." The investigation alleged that the bribe also included a discount on a purchase of players from Tubruk who transferred to Macabi Petah Tikva. A third Luzon brother, Itzik, who is an executive at Maccabi Petah Tikva, was interrogated by police together with Avi over the suspicions. Betar Tubruk, which is in the sixth division, Liga Gimmel, wanted to move from the Samaria district to the Sharon district in order to save money on transport and insurance fees. Several Arab teams play in the Samaria district, requiring a large police presence, which in turn incurred a higher cost. The IFA confirmed the move had taken place but insisted it had all been above board. "The Nes Tubruk team belongs geographically to the Sharon region and it was therefore transferred in accordance with its request and on the basis of a free place," an IFA statement read. "The transfer was carried out in accordance with the [correct] criteria and the regulations." The statement added that other teams were transferred from Samaria to Sharon during the same season, such as Maccabi Sharon Netanya. The IFA denied that Avi Luzon was linked in any way to the transfer. "It is prudent to await the conclusions of the investigation before jumping to conclusions," the statement said. On Tuesday, Ma'ariv published a hand-written note, apparently written by Amos Luzon, in which he vowed to help transfer Betar Tubruk to the Sharon district. Luzon denied the accusations during an interview with Army Radio. "I never intervened with the transfer of Tubruk to another district. They never spoke with me about this, it never interested me," he said. "The media doesn't like the fact that Avi Luzon is the IFA chairman, but this witch hunt only gives us strength."