JERUSALEM, Feb 13, (AP): Plans for an Emirati sheikh to purchase a 50% ownership stake in Israel’s famed and controversial Beitar Jerusalem soccer club have been put on hold, the team said Thursday, following reports questioning the sheikh’s finances. The purchase was announced to great fanfare in December, billed as the fruit of a US-brokered normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates last year.
It was also seen as a turning point for a club that had gained notoriety for its racist fans and its refusal to have an Arab player on its roster.
The team had said Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, has pledged to invest 300 million shekels, or about $90 million, in the club over the next decade. But in recent weeks, questions have reportedly arisen about the sheikh’s true wealth.
The Marker, an Israeli business news website, reported last month that an audit of the sheikh’s finances commissioned by Israel’s soccer federation revealed several inactive companies and fi- nancial discrepancies.