The Last Word: Now what, Betar?

Aguiar won't buy the club now; he'd rather wait until bankruptcy is declared.

jeremy last better pic (photo credit: Courtesy)
jeremy last better pic
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As Betar Jerusalem's players began celebrating wildly at National Stadium in Ramat Gan after winning the coveted State Cup on Tuesday night, and then later that evening in front of some 6,000 fans at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, two men were noticeably conspicuous by their absence. It would have been a massive surprise (although not unlike the unpredictable individual that he is) if current owner Arkadi Gaydamak had suddenly turned up in Jerusalem. But the fact that he was nowhere to be seen was a stark indicator of the impending doom which may descend on the team which won the Israeli Premier League in the last two seasons. The Russian-born businessman has been out of the country since December and has since spoken about how does not intend to put more money into funding the team which could very well force it into bankruptcy come June 1. However, the man touted as the only person who has enough cash, coupled with the desire, to give the team the economic boost it so sorely needs, also failed to turn up at either the game or the late night party. Thirteen days earlier, Brazilian-born businessman Guma Aguiar had no qualms about making himself the center of attention while attending the Cup semifinal between Betar and Hakoach Amidar Ramat Gan, also at National Stadium. At the time, his team of accountants and lawyers had only just began the due diligence process of going through the club's books and records to ascertain the exact financial situation, but Aguiar himself spoke freely about his desire to purchase Betar Jerusalem from Arkadi Gaydamak. Last week, Aguiar's PR people released a picture of him wearing a Betar jersey and holding his young son. So his no-show on Tuesday could easily be misconstrued as a precursor to an announcement that, after the completion of all investigations into the club's predicament, he has decided it is not worth the money. "Has he given up on us already?" thousands of Betar fans must have been asking themselves. The answer is far more nuanced, partly yes and partly no. According to those connected to Aguiar, he had wanted to go to the game, and the celebrations, but decided to stay home in order to not deflect the focus from the players themselves. This was not because he doesn't still hope to buy the club, just not yet. The due diligence showed that Betar Jerusalem is in far greater financial difficulty than was thought before it took place, in large part due to current and potential future lawsuits against it. As such, Aguiar is definitely not going to buy the club now but rather wait until bankruptcy is declared and deals agreed with those owed money. Only then is he intending to step in and provide a certain amount of cash which will allow the club to continue operating. In the ensuing process, there is still every chance he could become full owner, but that is for a future discussion. Either way, a very different financial situation at Betar Jerusalem will begin from this summer. Gone will be the heady days of Gaydamak's spending sprees and in will come the times of frugality. This was on most people's minds as they partied in Ramat Gan and Teddy on Tuesday, but everyone involved with the club did their best to put it to one side and concentrate on the successes. The party in Jerusalem went on till 1 a.m. and it was clear from the looks on their faces and the way they joined in singing the Betar anthems that the result meant as much to the players as it did to the fans. Unfortunately, it will only be a matter of days before they are forced to deal with the situation at hand. A number of scouts from various clubs across Europe were reported to have made the trip to Ramat Gan on Tuesday to check out potential players, including Aviram Bruchian and Barak Itzhaki. The pair may have been far from their best in the final, but both have had impressive seasons and will, in all likelihood, be on their way to new pastures in the coming weeks or months. Only time will tell just how much of an impact this financial crisis will have on Betar, but for one night the atmosphere created by a stirring cup victory illustrated what could be lost if the team isn't saved.