Emirati Sheikh Buys Israeli Soccer Club

An Emirati sheikh has bought a 50% stake in the Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem.

A club statement said Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan would invest $92m (£69m) over the next 10 years.

He declared that he was “thrilled to be a partner in such a glorious club”.

The deal comes three months after the United Arab Emirates became the first Gulf Arab state to normalise relations with Israel.

The two countries, and Bahrain, signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations at the White House in an accord brokered by the Trump administration.

Beitar Jerusalem is one of Israel’s top football clubs. It has won six Israeli Premier League titles, most recently in 2007-8, and counts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu among its supporters.

However, the club is well-known for a group of hardcore “ultra” fans, called “La Familia”, that has been openly racist towards Arabs, who make up 20% of Israel’s population.

In 2013, the club’s offices were set on fire days after it bought in two Chechen Muslim footballers. Two members of La Familia were charged with arson.

Beitar Jerusalem’s current owner, Israeli technology entrepreneur Moshe Hogeg, launched an anti-racism campaign after buying the club in 2018.

He told the BBC last December that he had warned fans: “You shout one racist comment and I will sue you for a million dollars.”

Despite some opposition from supporters, he signed a deal with Sheikh Hamad on Monday that saw the billionaire member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family take a 50% stake in Beitar Jerusalem.

In a statement, Mr Hogeg said the move – which comes days before Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights – symbolised a “new and exciting light”.

“Together, we all march the club to new days of coexistence, achievements and brotherhood for the sake of our club, community and Israeli sports,” he added

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