An agreement was reached Wednesday to sell the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, after extra funding was obtained to tackle its significant financial debt.
Current owner Moshe Hogeg inked an agreement with ex-Bnei Yehuda soccer club owner Barak Abramov, after key assistance from former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat.
The three men had gathered at the home of Barkat, now a Likud party Knesset member, as he worked to raise funds to smooth the deal, eventually pulling in NIS 2 million ($600,000), reportedly from a South African donor.
“Firstly I want to thank Nir Barkat who worked night and day to save Beitar Jerusalem and managed to obtain NIS 2 million,” Abramov said in a statement. “I will make every effort to save Beitar and enable it to return to a victorious path.
Key to the process, law enforcement officials, currently investigating Hogeg’s dealings, allowed the deal to go through. The Jerusalem municipality also worked out a plan to help finance the club in the coming years.
However, there remained a further hurdle to prevent the club from being kicked out of Israel’s premier league as it faced a midday deadline to submit its annual budget to the Israel Soccer Association.
After the sale was completed, the club asked for a 24-hour extension in order to be able to complete the budgeting paperwork, which was later granted.
משה חוגג וברק אברמוב חתמו היום (רביעי) על הסכם העברת הבעלות על בית"ר ירושלים.
יוצאים לדרך חדשה. pic.twitter.com/e1Jb1yv0is
— Beitar Jerusalem FC (@fcbeitar) August 10, 2022
On Tuesday, Abramov briefly walked away from the deal due to the team’s financial troubles. Hogeg then held a press conference in which he pleaded with fans and the general public to assist in the sale, saying only an additional several million shekels were needed for it to be able to go forward.
Hogeg was arrested late last year on suspicion of 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.
The club has been experiencing a rough patch due to an unprecedented economic crisis that has 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 suspected fraud continues, has been unable to pay the debts, raising the possibility of complete bankruptcy.
He insisted on Tuesday that he had tried to sell Beitar before his arrest, saying that his disagreements with fans over their opposition to his signing of Muslim players and attempts to sell the club to an Emirati owner eventually became unbridgeable.
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 and for the racism of some hardcore fans.
Particularly, a group of diehards called La Familia have engaged in racist behavior during games.