This Would Never Happen in Soccer

Maccabi Haifa’s basketball team is embroiled in a double-contract scandal.

Eyal Gil
Eyal Gil
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Eyal Gil
Eyal Gil

Why are the tax authorities not impressed with Maccabi Haifa basketball club owner Jeff Rosen’s exciting documentary? Imagine that the heads of Maccabi Haifa’s soccer team would be questioned by the police for signing players on double contracts, that the vice president would be released on bail and that the tax authorities would put the club under a magnifying glass.

If any of that had happened, we would have never heard the end of it. The headlines would scream in bold, radio talk shows would speak of nothing else, journalists would make mincemeat of club owner Ya’akov Shahar day in and day out. So why doesn’t the Maccabi Haifa basketball scandal cause a splash?

True, basketball is less popular, especially in Haifa, but still, people are being investigated, tax authority officials hold raids and nonetheless, silence all around: no real criticism, no question marks, no huge headlines. The club takes advantage of the situation and tries to ignore the scandal, waiting for the storm to pass. Journalists dealing with basketball aren’t making Haifa’s life hard. That would never happen if it were the soccer club.

Take Maccabi Haifa’s alibi, for example, a highly doubtful story. The club insists that foreign players and its American coach Brad Greenberg signed a separate contract apart from the one presented to the basketball budget authority with Rosen’s media company. Well, with all due respect to the original excuse, the tax authorities and Israel Basketball Association still believe it’s illegal.

The club maintains that the contracts are a completely separate issue that has nothing to do with basketball. The extra payments are for appearing in a T.V. program produced by Rosen. Naturally, everyone would like to know what channel broadcasts this gem. The title of the program a documentary is “Inside Israeli Basketball,” and it tells the moving story of a group of basketball players and their coach (all Americans ) who make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

T.V. presenter Yarden Harel appears every so often, with Haifa’s hot spots in the background. Greenberg is seen driving along Haifa’s long and winding roads, and the team’s point guard Paul Stoll attempts to walk the waters, like Jesus. Wouldn’t you toss a few dollars their way for such a persuasive performance?

The IBA also doesn’t emerge unscathed from this affair. The official announcement, “we’ll wait until the tax authorities complete the investigation,” is reminiscent of its stance in the Moni Fanan scandal (and what happened with that? Was the investigation ever concluded? ) The IBA has no business waiting. If Maccabi Haifa is guilty of wrongdoing, according to the association’s rules, it should be punished. And now. The tax authorities can finish their business with Rosen when they see fit. It has nothing to do with the IBA.

Of course there’s always the ancient mantra: “We mustn’t scare away a businessman who invests in Israeli basketball.” Even if he’s a cheat? Even if his club stands to gain an advantage with respect to other teams, who abide by the rules? Some people truly believe that since Rosen invests money, we should ignore his failings. That same logic caused Israeli basketball to fail miserably with Nahum Manbar, Guma Aguiar, and now with Rosen.

If Maccabi Haifa cheated, it should be severely punished, even if it means that Rosen will leave. I believe we’ll manage to survive without his brilliant documentary.

Team owner Jeff Rosen. A scandal that made no splash. Credit: Sharon Bukov