After questions over finances, United Arab Emirates royal’s acquisition of a 50% stake in Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem has been suspended.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, has pledged to invest $92m in the club over the next ten years.
At the same time, Sheikh Hamad’s true wealth have been questioned recently.
The Rights Transfer Committee, which must approve the sale, requested more documents to continue with the purchase.
An audit of the sheikh’s finances commissioned by Israel’s football federation revealed several inactive companies and financial discrepancies, The Marker, an Israeli business news website, reported last month.
The Israeli football club owner Moshe Hogeg had planned to fly to Dubai to consult with the sheikh but was unable to travel because of the recent closure of Israel’s airport due to coronavirus restrictions.
“We preferred to withdraw the request, and hand in a new one instead,” it said. “The reports of the deal being off are false.”
Israeli Football Club
Beitar, linked to the Israeli Likud party, is the only major Israeli club never to have signed an Arab player.
Arabs constitute 20% of the population of Israel. Arab players, however, star on rival teams and the country’s national team.
Hogeg told Associated Press last year he hoped to remove the stain of racism from the team while transforming it into a football powerhouse with a diverse lineup.
“I love football, and I thought it was the opportunity to buy this club and to fix this racist problem. And then I could do something that is bigger than football,” he said.
Last December, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family has purchased a 50% stake in the Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem.
The deal came among other business deals between Israel and the UAE after establishing formal diplomatic relations in September 2020.
In an announcement posted on their website, Israeli football club Beitar said Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Nahyan’s purchase also included a commitment to invest more than $92 in the club over the next ten years.
Beitar’s announcement quoted Sheikh Hamad as saying: “I am thrilled to be a partner in such a glorious club that I have heard so much of and in such a great city, the capital of Israel and one of the holiest cities in the world.”
The Israeli football club gained notoriety for the racism of its fans and their “deaths to Arabs” chants, said the Rights Transfer Committee of Israel’s football federation.