UAE investment in Israeli football club 'frozen'

Plans by a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family to purchase a 50 per cent stake in Israel's controversial Beitar Jerusalem Football Club have been frozen, following reports questioning the sheikh's finances, it was announced yesterday. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan made the deal in December with the club whose supporters are notoriously racist and anti-Arab.

"Beitar confirmed that it had officially asked to withdraw its request [to the Transfer Committee of the Israeli Football Association] to approve the deal, but insisted that the sale has just been postponed, not cancelled altogether," Israeli media reported.

An Israeli business news website, The Marker, reported last month that an audit of the sheikh's finances commissioned by the Israeli football authorities revealed several inactive companies and financial discrepancies. According to the investigation, Sheikh Hamad reportedly "owns dozens of inactive firms and is allegedly connected with businessmen involved in fraud and money laundering."

The club statement added that 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 Ben Gurion Airport due to coronavirus restrictions.

Sheikh Hamad had pledged to invest 300 million shekels ($92m) in the club over the next 10 years. He bought into Beitar Jerusalem FC four months after the UAE, breaking with decades of Arab policy, agreed to establish relations with Israel. The normalisation move angered Palestinians and other Muslim states and communities.

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