Soccer: Tel Aviv police on alert for Betar fans at Ramat Gan

Just three months ago an arson attack was attempted on the offices, apparently by fans of Betar Jerusalem.

betar fans 88.298 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
betar fans 88.298
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger [file])
Tel Aviv police have taken special measures to secure the offices of the Israel Football Association at the National Stadium in Ramat Gan ahead of Wednesday's State Cup semifinals. Just three months ago an arson attack was attempted on the offices, apparently by fans of Betar Jerusalem. The violence and images of smashed windows shocked the Israeli soccer community. "Without going into details, we have of course taken steps to secure the site," a Tel Aviv police spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. The police have also made it clear that no fans will be allowed on to the field of play during or after the Hapoel Tel Aviv vs Betar/ Shimshon Tel Aviv, and Betar Jerusalem vs Maccabi Netanya matches. On Sunday thousands of Betar fans invaded the pitch four minutes before the end of the game, causing the match to be abandoned. "We are making very intensive, serious preparations for the game,"the spokeswoman said. "1,100 police and security guards will secure the game and keep public order. We will conduct strict searchers of all fans entering the stadium," she said. The spokeswoman added that any field invasion was more likely to erupt during the cup final rather than the semi final, but added that police were prepared for any eventuality. "Storming the field is illegal, and shouldn't happen during any game," she said. Meanwhile, Jerusalem Police explained Wednesday that the thousands of Betar Jerusalem fans who invaded the field at Teddy Stadium on Sunday night were not stopped by police because of concerns over lethal trampling and dangerous physical confrontations. "The point is to safeguard human life. That is the priority which guided us on Sunday night, and which will continue to guide us in the future," Jerusalem police spokesman Shmulik Ben-Ruby told the Post by phone. "If we had tried to stop them in any way, the fans would have been trampled and the incident would have ended in deaths and injuries," he added. Ben-Ruby vigorously denied reports of an agreement between police and Betar Jerusalem in which the police had committed to getting out of the way of a field invasion. "That is completely false. We announced on the day of the game that no such agreement existed. We announced our preparations for a storming of the field. And we learned of flyers being distributed by fan clubs calling on the crowd to raid the field. "We tracked down the flyers and confiscated them," Ben-Ruby said. The police spokesman expressed skepticism over calls to reintroduce fences to keep the unruly fans from disrupting future games, saying that barriers had led to injuries in the past. In May 2007, during a game between Betar and Hapoel Patah Tikva, dozens of Betar fans sustained injuries after being pressed against fences which then existed at Teddy, during an attempted field invasion. "When there was a fence there, everyone asked us: Why is there a fence? It causes injuries. Now we're being asked: Why isn't there a fence?" Ben-Ruby said. "We have learned from past experiences that fences are dangerous." The police spokesman said he hoped that the Israeli Football Association would pass down a harsh punishment on Betar for the behavior of its fans. "The job of the police is to enforce the law, not to educate. The conduct of the fans is the responsibility of the Betar Jerusalem soccer club. I hope Betar receive penalties that will teach its fans a lesson," he stressed. "Not all of the fans invaded," he continued. "We clearly saw arguments break out among fans in the East Stand - where most of the field invaders came from. Many were against raiding the field." Sports Minister Ghaleb Majadle caused a storm of controversy on Monday when he told Army Radio that he believed it would be better for Israeli soccer if Betar Jerusalem spent a season outside the top division.