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Beitar Jerusalem fans announce deal to buy soccer team from owner suspected of fraud

Association managed by club’s supporters says it will raise some NIS 12 million to help reduce deficit, hire new players

Beitar Jerusalem soccer supporters sing and wave their flag as players enter the pitch during a team training session in Jerusalem, December 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Beitar Jerusalem soccer supporters sing and wave their flag as players enter the pitch during a team training session in Jerusalem, December 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

A fan club for Beitar Jerusalem FC announced Sunday that is has signed a deal with the soccer team’s owner, Moshe Hogeg, to purchase the club.

“We are happy to announce that we’ve reached an agreement to transfer ownership of our beloved team Beitar Jerusalem to the fans through the fan’s association,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

The group said the agreement would come into effect within two weeks after sufficient funds are raised.

Under the deal, some NIS 12 million (over $3.5 million) that will be raised by fans will go toward reducing the team’s deficit and for potential recruits of new players who can keep the team competitive.

Hogeg and the fan club agreed that the funds will not go toward paying off debts that are not strictly connected to the team.

The group promised to keep all fans updated on the deal and to communicate everything with full transparency.

Moshe Hogeg, Beitar Jerusalem owner, seen during the Israeli Premier League match between Beitar Jerusalem and Hapoel Beersheba at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, on August 25, 2019. (Flash90)

According to the group’s statement, a major reason for buying the team was due to fears that it could be relegated from the Israeli Premier League if the team’s management is neglected while Hogeg — who is battling allegations of sex crimes and massive financial fraud — searches for new buyers.

The group stressed that “once the agreement comes into effect… the club’s ownership will be fully transferred (100 percent of the stocks) to the association.”

The fan club also noted it had received “the blessing of relevant officials and the support of the Jerusalem mayor and his advisor Ofer Ayoubey.”

The club has been experiencing a rough patch recently, forcing it to forego players due to an unprecedented economic crisis that resulted in about NIS 30 million (around $8.8 million) in debt.

Hogeg, whose accounts have been confiscated by the police as the investigation into his alleged fraud continues, has been unable to pay the debts, raising the possibility of complete bankruptcy.

Moshe Hogeg (L) is released to house arrest, December 14, 2021. (Screen grab/Ynet)

Sunday’s announcement came after hundreds of Beitar Jerusalem fans protested outside Hogeg’s home last week, demanding that he relinquish control over the team.

Hogeg was arrested late last year for alleged sex crimes and cryptocurrency fraud. He was held for nearly a month before being released to house arrest on bail and other financial guarantees amounting to around NIS 70 million (more than $20 million) in total.

He was arrested along with seven others on suspicion of involvement in alleged massive fraud. He is also suspected of sex crimes, including trafficking and underage prostitution offenses, as well as carrying out indecent acts, sexual harassment, operating a location for the purpose of prostitution, invasion of privacy, bringing an individual into prostitution, and supplying drugs and alcohol to underage girls.

Hogeg has denied all the accusations against him and has said that he was treated cruelly while in police custody to extract information, claims experts said are valid in many cases.

 

 

He bought Beitar Jerusalem in 2018. In September of last year, before he was charged with crimes, he said he would sell the club, citing anti-Arab racist tendencies among its “ungrateful” fans.

He faced backlash from the notoriously racist anti-Arab factions among the club’s fans after selling a 50 percent stake in the club in 2020 to Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family. Al Nahyan pledged to pump $90 million into the team in the coming decade.

Then Israel’s soccer association conducted an investigation that found a potential “significant gap” between Al Nahyan’s declared capital and what he owns in reality. The deal fell through amid reported suspicions of financial misdealing by Al Nahyan.

Beitar is one of the country’s most storied franchises, counting Israeli presidents and prime ministers among its fans.

But it also has drawn negative attention for many years for being the only major club never to have an Arab player. Israel’s Arab minority makes up roughly 20% of the population, and Arab players star on rival teams and in the country’s national squad.

Club officials have in the past said their hands were tied by a hardcore base of far-right fans who wield significant clout over personnel decisions, including a small group of die-hards called La Familia who have engaged in racist behavior during games.

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