Debt-ridden Hapoel Tel Aviv face liquidation threat

One of Israel's most famous football clubs could go out of business with debts of £22 million after a crowdfunding campaign raised only £25,000


With no buyers on the horizon, Hapoel Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s most  famous football clubs, faces liquidation and relegation.

The club’s fans have launched a crowdfunding campaign, but the £25,000 collected so far makes only a small dent in Hapoel’s £22million debt.
Earlier this month, the Tel Aviv District Court agreed to a stay-of-proceedings request by club owner Amir Kabiri for protection from creditors, and put Hapoel in the hands of a trustee.

But Judge Eitan Orenstein ruffled the feathers of the football authorities by ordering the Israel FA not to deduct nine points from Hapoel, as is customary for clubs seeking court protection from debt. The Israel FA is appealing against this to the Supreme Court. In any event, under UEFA regulations Hapoel will be banned from European 
competition for three years.

If they cannot find a buyer and must be liquidated, they will be relegated by at least two divisions. 

Hapoel Tel Aviv is one of Israel’s most illustrious teams, having won the Ligat Ha’Al title 13 times, most recently in 2010. Famously, Hapoel knocked 
Chelsea out of the UEFA Cup in 2001.

The financial problems date back to the late 1980s when the Histadrut trade union movement, which then owned the club, sank into debt. Since then a series of businesspeople have owned the club but failed to fully solve the debt problems. 

Kabiri, the latest owner, is the son of a wealthy Tel Aviv family and a well-known art collector. He has sunk £10million into the club since buying a controlling stake in Hapoel 18 months ago.

Meanwhile the team fights on, four points clear of the relegation zone. But that will change if the Supreme Court insists that nine points must be deducted. 

Hapoel boss Guy Luzon, who managed Charlton last season, has declared his loyalty to the club even though his salary has been halved. He said: “If we lose the nine points, every game will be a battle if we want to avoid relegation. But we can do it.”

Luzon may change his tune next month if a new buyer is not found and Hapoel’s best players are sold.  

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