Hapoel Tel Aviv begins process to stem fan violence after postgame incidents following Hapoel Haifa loss

Mar 24, 2024 | Holyland Hoops

Violence at sporting events has been on the rise around the world since the COVID-19 pandemic effected the entire globe back during the spring of 2020. Sports were suspended from basketball to hockey to soccer and baseball, athletes in every discipline were forced to come to a halt until decisions could be made as to how sports could continue on. Eventually basketball returned to the Bubble in Orlando, soccer made it’s way to empty stadiums, while hockey created bubbles of their own in various cities but no fans were allowed in.

As more and more was understood about the coronavirus, supporters were eventually permitted to return to the arenas and stadiums in small numbers which little by little grew over a few years to where there would be no restrictions on attendance. However, as the fans returned to the sports facilities, violence between fans of opposing teams increased as well as security personnel had trouble managing the new phenomenon that was sweeping the earth.

There were also brutal attacks by gangs against sports fans as well including the 2022 UEFA Champions League final held at Paris’ Stade De France between Liverpool and Real Madrid. Thousands of fans were beaten and mugged by local thugs while others jumped the fences around the stadium as security forces were not equipped to handle such violence.

Whether it’s been an NFL game, an NBA clash or and Israeli game as well the level of violence has reached unprecedented heights.

Last season saw numerous troubling events as the basketball campaign came to a close with flares being lit inside closed arenas, drinks, food and garbage being thrown at fans as well as unsavory songs that filled the facilities.

The basketball league said that they would work on a way to cut down on the trouble and find those fans who have caused problems and deal with them. Of course, words are much easier than actions as the league along with the other parties couldn’t figure anything out of the summer break and that led to a Winner Cup semifinal fiasco where the police asked Hapoel Tel Aviv fans for their Teudat Zehut ID card before entering the Drive In Arena. That led to the Reds management boycotting the game as Maccabi received an automatic bye to the final.

Next up was Hapoel Tel Aviv’s game at Hapoel Beer Sheva where a group of fans thought it was intelligent to curse out the police as they were being honored after losing many of the force on October 7th from the Hamas attacks. Some fans were identified and forced to apologize while others other were supposed to be banned from attending games but it seemed that the courts struck down those motions, because a 17-year old who should have been banned led a riot that too place against Hapoel Haifa fans this past weekend.

Hapoel Haifa were a tough opponent all the way through for Hapoel Tel Aviv and eventually defeated the home team as the Carmel Reds recorded a 88-85 win at the Drive In Arena. However, the unfortunate action was just starting after the final buzzer went off as Hapoel Tel Aviv fans went across the court and started beating up Haifa supporters. One individual was beaten with a belt, kicked in the head, hit with drumsticks, punched and smashed. Our 17-year old suspect was arrested and brought in for questioning.

In what society is this behavior normal?

Certainly after October 7th we would understand what is right and what is wrong.

Well, apparently that was not the case.

Security personnel meandered around as more so called Hapoel Tel Aviv fans ran onto the court, making sure to cover their faces as to not be identified.

The chairman of Hapoel Tel Aviv, Rami Cohen, commented on the ugly incident, “I think that the incident that took place here is horrible, there is no, no place for this even on the street and certainly not on a basketball court. There was a similar incident that occurred two weeks ago and we tried to understand how it began as it started in the stands. The police took all the evidence and will try to find the culprits and bring them to justice. This has no place at a sporting event and I want to apologize to the young Hapoel Haifa fan, this looked bad. A young man who came to the game and did nothing, was in the wrong place at the wrong time”

The club also posted a statement about what had occurred, “Hapoel Tel Aviv is shocked and shocked by the events that took place at the end of the game. The events constitute criminal behavior and must not occur. This has no place in sports and it will have no place here. The responsibility for the behavior and safety of the crowd at the home games is first of all ours and we obviously failed. We will take all measures to ensure that such an event does not happen. We will make sure that everyone who was involved in the incident is brought to justice. Hapoel Tel Aviv will not accept violence and will not accept the presence of criminal behavior in the stands.”

On the other side, Hapoel Haifa Chairman Yuval Rossman spoke about the violence in a conversation with the Sports Channel, “There was an atmosphere of terror at the Drive-In Arena. Fans are beating other fans and there is no security, we felt alone. Our fans were smashed with a belt and chairs were flying in the air. Myself and CEO Ron Feldheim were in shock. In all my years nothing like this has happened to me. Luckily, a fan was not killed here. He’s shocked. It’s crazy, it’s looking death in the eyes. Miraculously no fan was killed here”

“There was no one around in terms of security,” said the team’s CEO Ron Feldheim. “Fans felt threatened. We hid them in the dressing room while the players were dressing and showering, so that they wouldn’t come out and beat them. The more I go back and see the videos and recreate the difficult events at the end of the game, I understand that it is only a miracle that the lynching ended with only injuries. You can see our fan lying on the floor and at least ten Hapoel Tel Aviv fans beating him with sticks and belts without any intervention from the security personnel and the police.”

Even when it seemed that it was over, another fan came over and brutally kicked him in the head when he was helpless. This time it did not end in murder, but in order for such a case not to be repeated, it is mandatory for all the parties – the Minister of Culture and Sports, the Minister of Internal Security, the Israel Police, the Basketball Association and the league management – to treat this criminal violence as if someone had been murdered, otherwise we will see this hooliganism again. Only severe and significant punishment for everyone who took part in the lynching will we be able to eradicate violence in basketball.”

As a club, Hapoel Haifa commented, “A black day for Israeli basketball!!! Instead of celebrating our victory, we are busy with an ugly lynching by Hapoel Tel Aviv fans, against Hapoel Haifa supporters. The Hapoel Tel Aviv fans, who are known for their ugly and unrelenting violence, decided to brutally attack our fans and we were not far from a tragic ending!”

“Basketball games at the Drive-In Arena have become a battlefield where the members of the visiting teams are abandoned and their fate are in the hands of violent hooligans who go onto the court and destroy the entire sport for everyone. Where was the security? We are turning to the chairman of the board and demand the league be halted until solutions are found regarding the security of the players, teams and fans, and the immediate eradication of the hooliganism that destroys basketball. This violence must be stopped immediately.”

The Minister of Culture and Sports, Miki Zohar chimed in on the unfortunate action, “The incidents of violence we saw are as serious as anything else and miraculously they did not end in death. We must not allow the phenomenon in which a handful of rioters are looking to destroy everyone. The absolute majority of sports fans are good, normal people who go to sporting events to enjoy them and it is our duty to find those who endangers others and put them behind bars. We will continue to act with full force in order to get to the roots of the violence and wipe it out. We will not allow this behavior to become the norm at sporting events in Israel.”

The League Administration also gave their thoughts on the incident, “We were shocked by the photos that we saw from the Shlomo Group Arena. This is serious violence by all accounts, the response to which must be the most severe punishment for those unruly fans who ruin the name of the rest of their team’s supporters. In sports, and in basketball in particular, there is no place for violent fans who destroy every good part of the sport. We call on all those who have the authority to punish them whether it’s the Israel Police, the courts or the Israel Basketball Association Court as there must be zero tolerance for violence of any kind.”

As the comments came in fast and furious, questions still remained. Would the fans who caused the riot be held accountable? Will those responsible parties come up with an appropriate solution so these types of occurrences are stopped? Who will ultimately take responsibility and halt the vicious circle where no one takes the baton to take the next bold step?

However, realistically Hapoel Tel Aviv must take next steps and less than 24 hours after the brutal events following the Hapoel Haifa game, the Reds management stepped up and issued a 5 point plan to begin the process of change and they stated that they will do whatever it takes and come out of this incident stronger.

1. Hapoel Tel Aviv will work in every way to identify those involved.

2. All fans who are identified as having taken part in the “pogrom” will be denied entry, by cancelling season tickets and by any other means.

3. The club is considering filing a personal lawsuit against everyone involved, which will reflect the damages to the club, to its reputation and the direct and indirect damages that have been and will be caused to it.

4. Stand 1 at Shlomo Group Arena will be closed until an adequate security solution is found.

5. The security company will be replaced and a new security plan will be put in place within 10 days in order to ensure that there will be no issues between the fan bases at a game and to make sure that Hapoel Tel Aviv games will be held in a safe environment for every fan.

These points are all a good start and Hapoel owner Ofer Yannay knows full well that if he wants to take the club to the next level both in Israel and abroad, he’s got to clean up the club first from within before he can think about building a tradition that will be able to challenge some of the larger teams across Europe.

The pictures and videos coming out of the Drive In Arena following the game were brutal, but hopefully all parties involved can take the steps to clean up this issues once and for all. There is no way shape or form that Yannay wants to see a repeat performance of what made it to every website and mainstream news channel along with the sports sites.

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