The Beitar Jerusalem soccer team on Tuesday won the state cup for the eighth time in its history, but the club is in danger of losing the trophy due to unruly behavior by its fans following the win.
Following the conclusion of Tuesday evening’s match at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa, in which Beitar defeated Maccabi Netanya 3-0, thousands of Beitar fans stormed the field of play and caused the trophy ceremony to be delayed for 40 minutes.
After the fans were removed from the field, the ceremony began in the presence of President Isaac Herzog, Minister of Culture and Sports Miki Zohar, and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion. However, minutes after the ceremony began, thousands of Jerusalem fans stormed the field again, causing the President to be evacuated from the scene under heavy security. In the end the ceremony was called off completely.
Article 12 of the Israel Soccer Association's bylaws states that, should a large number of fans storm onto the playing field as part of a match to determine the winner of the state cup, "the team will be removed from the competition and the victory will be awarded to the opposing team, and if it won the cup, it will be deprived of the title as the holder of the cup, as well as all the sports and financial rights that arise from its participation in the final game and the trophy will be awarded to the team that it faced in this game."
It should be noted that the incident occurred 45 minutes after the conclusion of the game, which may turn out to be a winning argument for Beitar not to be denied the eighth cup title in its history.
The head of the Israel Soccer Association, Shino Zuares, said in an interview following Tuesday night’s chaos, "An embarrassing moment for Israeli soccer." On the question of whether the cup will indeed be stripped from Beitar, Zuares replied, "We will act only in accordance with to the regulations."
Beitar, meanwhile, disavowed the behavior of the fans and reacted with pain and anger to the incident, but said that this does not justify stripping the club of the title.
Beitar Jerusalem owner Barak Abramov said, "Whoever did this, the Soccer Association, should be held accountable for it. They are to blame, this failure is only theirs."
"This is something that has never happened before, I don't know who wrote the regulations and when. Beitar Jerusalem could not have prevented this, if the association does not know how to control a crowd, they should not be holding soccer games," he added.
Abramov concluded, "If they take the cup from Beitar, we will challenge it and we will go all the way," before adding that if it does happen, it will be the end of his career in Israeli soccer.