Tel Aviv: The takeover of a 50 percent stake in Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem football club by a royal United Arab Emirates has been frozen due to questions about the sheikh’s finances.
The club, which has gained notoriety for its supporters’ racism and their “death to Arabs,” said on Thursday the Israel Football Federation’s Rights Transfer Committee, which must approve the sale, had asked for more documents to proceed with the purchase.
The team told Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, had promised to invest 300 million shekels ($ 92 million) in the club over the next ten years.
But in recent weeks, questions have apparently arisen about the sheikh’s true wealth.
The Marker, an Israeli market news website, proclaimed last month that an audit of the sheikh’s finances on behalf of the Israeli football federation revealed several inactive companies and financial inconsistencies.
According to the report, club owner Moshe Hogeg planned to fly to Dubai to consult with the sheikh but could not travel due to the coronavirus restrictions due to the recent airport closure in Israel.
“We prefer to withdraw the request and rather submit a new one,” he said. “The reports about the cancellation of the transaction are untrue.”
In December, the purchase made headlines amid a spate of profession deals between Israel and the UAE heeding their move to build formal diplomatic connections in September.
It was also seen as a turning position for a club whose fans became synonymous with racism.
Beitar, loosely affiliated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, is one of the country’s deepest clubs, gaining 13 trophies and scoring Israeli presidents and prime ministers amongst its followers.
But in recent years, it has attracted attention because he was the only major Israeli club that has never signed an Arab player. Israel’s Arab minority makes up about 20 percent of the population, and Arab players play in competitive teams and the country’s national group.
Club officials have said in the past that their hands are tied by a hard-nosed fan who has a significant influence on staff decisions.
Hogeg, who earned millions of dollars with cryptocurrency, told the Associated Press late last year that he hopes to remove the stain of racism from the team while turning it into a football powerhouse with a diverse range.
‘I love football, and I thought it was an opportunity to buy this club and solve this racist problem. “And then I could do something bigger than football,” he said.