Soccer / Crime and punishment / Maccabi Petah Tikva appears headed for second-tier league
IFA court reverses decision, docks team three points now instead of next season. Amos Luzon: This isn't justice
An expanded panel of the Israel Football Association's highest court decided yesterday to reverse last week's controversial decision to delay until next season Maccabi Petah Tikva's three-point penalty for its players' part in a violent melee.
As a result, Maccabi Petah Tikva now stands six points below 13th-placed Hapoel Be'er Sheva in the Premier League standings, with relegation to the second-tier National League appearing almost certain.
Friday's mass brawl involving players and staff of National League teams Hapoel Ramat Gan and Bnei Lod at Winter Stadium sparked further calls for the IFA to reverse last week's decision to delay Petah Tikva's punishment for its players' part in an on-field brawl with Hapoel Haifa earlier this month - which had effectively granted the struggling team a chance to avoid relegation.
The five-man tribunal discussed for only 50 minutes whether to reinstate the penalty before the panel retired to make its decision. Conspicuous in his absence was Maccabi Petah Tikva owner Amos Luzon, brother of IFA Chairman Avi Luzon.
"Why bother turning up?" Amos Luzon said earlier in the day. "The result of this hearing is obvious - it's clear they're going to deduct the points now so that they can do the same to Hapoel Ramat Gan and Bnei Lod tomorrow. If there was justice this hearing would not take place. But there isn't justice, and we're not going to be a part of this injustice." In his place, Maccabi Petah Tikva sent two lawyers to represent the club.
Attorney Moshe Avivi, representing the IFA, told the tribunal: "A season begins with its first game and end with the last game. This way, justice is maintained. Beitar Jerusalem had points docked this season for infractions made this season. Imagine what would have happened if Beitar was involved in the relegation battle. The punishment must be administered this season."
"The recent events at a different game altogether dictated the pressure for a second hearing," said Maccabi Petah Tikva's lawyer Liron Kahane. "Violence must be fought, but with all due respect, when a player with Lod or Ramat Gan kicks another player, or a coach stomps on them, why should Maccabi Petah Tikva pay the price? The punishment is hard enough as it is."
In a related development, Maccabi Haifa owner Yaakov Shahar yesterday turned down IFA Chairman Luzon's request to head a special committee looking into the recent violence in soccer, saying that role should be filled by someone with no connection to a local club.