Hundreds of Israeli fans gathered on Monday to protest the decision by the Israel Football Association to defer its three-point deduction against Maccabi Petah Tikva.

The punishment was handed out for an attack by Maccabi Petah Tikva officials on a Hapoel Haifa player after a Premier League match between the two in late March.

At the time, the IFA imposed a three-point deduction and suspended three Hapoel players after a brawl on March 31 led to Haifa striker Ali Hatib being head butted by Petah Tikva goalkeeping coach Ami Genish.

Questions about the motives for suspending the three-point penalty for the relegation-threatened side arose because IFA chairman Avi Luzon just happens to be the older brother of Maccabi Petah Tikva owner Amos Luzon. Moreover, the IFA chief was himself the owner of the club until he was forced to stand down upon taking up his current role five years ago. I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but you can understand why the other clubs in trouble, smell a rat.

The decision means Petah Tikva will start next season with minus three points. The club argued that the original punishment was unfair because it directly influenced the relegation battle and the deduction had pushed them into the drop zone.

The decision angered rival clubs and prompted Sports Minister Limor Livnat to issue a statement saying Israeli FA chairman Avi Luzon needed to explain the decision.

“The head of the IFA must detach himself from any biased decision, it is the only way to restore public faith in the association and its bodies,” the statement said.

Hoeness ups the ante

Bayern Munich chief Uli Hoeness, who yesterday spoke caustically about Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund’s failure to translate their domestic success to the European stage, has turned his attention to Real Madrid and their habitual inability to pay their debts.

For Hoeness, though, it is not enough to highlight the financial advantages enjoyed by the Spanish league leaders. No, the entire country of Spain and its population are in his sights.

“I have great respect for that club, its name, its tradition. The only thing I dislike is that it is a club that has great athletic success but will not pay their debts by itself. That’s a problem,” said Hoeness.

“I reacted to the news of the €750 million of Treasury debt of Spanish clubs. I cannot understand this! Germany is giving people a lot of money to survive and then this happens.

“I think you have to treat everyone equally. And to me it seems incredible that in Spain three years ago you paid a maximum tax for the players of 25%. It was a great advantage for Spanish clubs. In Germany we pay 45%.”

The Bayern chief, though presiding over a remarkably well-run club, rarely misses an opportunity to remind the world just how well-run an institution Bayern has become. So well run in fact, it’s a wonder they don’t win the Bundesliga more often.

Rangers saga rumbles on

Rangers takeover saga appeared to move one step closer to resolution last night when the Blue Knights announced they were taking a step back from the process, leaving the path clear for a Singapore-based consortium led by Bill Ng.

The Blue Knights group was originally backed by the Ticketus organisation, the investment firm whose money financed Craig Whyte’s takeover of the club last May, but it appears that they have now jumped ship and joined forces with Ng.

Meanwhile, Whyte, who is currently lying low in the south of France, has laughed off suggestions that he might return to Scotland to contest a Scottish Football Association charge.

Whyte and the Ibrox club have been hit with 7 charges related to them breaching the league’s rules regarding his suitability to run the club.

Asked if he would be at Hampden tomorrow, then said: “Not a chance.

“The SFA is a farcical organisation. The whole thing is a farce. I will absolutely play no part in it and I will have no representation at Hampden.

“I will have more to say about it all in the next couple of days.”

Somehow, you just know he won’t though; at least not in a way that will shed any light whatsoever on his short-lived reign of terror at Rangers.

Scotland the brave?

Farcical organisation or not, the SFA is considering taking the bull by the horns and setting up a National Football League to replace the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League.

The prospect of a new Scottish National League was confirmed to BBC Scotland by three senior football figures.

An SFA source said: “There would have to be a willingness from clubs; this would be for the good of the game.

“It would almost be a benevolent act to bring two warring factions together for the good of Scottish football.”

A senior SPL club official added: “The SFA may step in and get involved. The extreme may be that they take the thing over.

“Everyone has to move this along, it’s whites of the eyes time.”

At the heart of the current discussions is a proposal to change the majority voting format from 11-1 (which ensures an Old Firm veto) to 9-3, which numerically at least, would allow the dog to wag the tail.

The source warned that the 10 clubs seeking change were determined to continue their fight.

“We will still be there,” he said. “The clubs won’t go away without a fight. We need a debate on this on 30 April. These are very interesting times for the future of the game. Much more fairness and balance is needed.”

Whatever the arguments in favour of maintaining the status quo, no one could possibly suggest that Scottish football as a whole, no the Old Firm clubs in particular, had benefited from the current arrangements.

Goal of the day

Alvaro Negredo opened the scoring for Sevilla at Getafe with a wonderful acrobatic overhead kick. That was as good as it got for the visitors as the Madrid-based side came back to win 5-1.

Own goal of the day

Genclerbirligi’s Ante Kulusic Genclerbirligi managed to score an own goal from the halfway line against Gaziantepsor in Turkey’s Spor Toto Cup.

Quote of the day

“We’re taking football back to its origins. Interests have changed everything: all that matters is winning any way you can. If you don’t, you are worthless. For me, that’s not football. When I was young I wanted to win but I played because it was fun. Our approach has a bit of that. Enjoyment. I love football, adore it. We have to give something back to the fans.

Smug? Definitely. Justifiably so? Possibly. Dani Alves explains the ‘Barcelona’ philosophy under Pep Guardiola. Alves gave a revealing interview to World Soccer’s Spain correspondent, Sid Lowe. The full interview can be found here.

Cruyff plays down ‘talk’

Dutch legend Johan Cruyff has dismissed talk that he is on the verge of agreeing to become Liverpool’s new director of football. Making a mess of Ajax is a full time job, so where would he find the time?

There was frenzied speculation last week that Cruyff had been approached to replace Damian Comolli, who left the club for ‘family reasons’ last week. However, the Dutchman has moved to quell the rumours.

“I’ve seen my name mentioned in connection with Liverpool. I don’t know where that has come from,” said Cruyff. 

”I have not heard anything from them. There has been no contact at all.

 To just read speculation without substance you shouldn’t take it seriously. It is just talk.”

Emre denies allegations

Fenerbahce’s Emre Belozoglu has denied allegations that he racially abused Didier Zokora during his side’s 2-0 win over Trabzonspor on Sunday.

Zokora was adamant that he had been racially abused, but Emre insists otherwise and has invoked the highest authority to back him up.

“There’s no place for racism in our [Turkish] culture – it’s a sin. If there’s the slightest feeling of racism inside me, may Allah rip my heart out,” he said during a press conference.

“I didn’t use the expression that Zokora quoted. I used a word that I learned in England, which I don’t find appropriate. The incident was settled on the pitch.”

Emre’s team-mate Joseph Yobo, was wheeled out to defend the Turkey international.

“Emre has been a good friend of mine since I got here. Zokora is also a friend of mine, and I’m sorry to have witnessed an incident between the two,” Yobo began.

“I wouldn’t have come to Turkey if Emre was a racist. He’s a very ambitious player, but racism is not one of his goals.”

“Since I came to Turkey [in 2010], I haven’t encountered any racism. This type of thing exists in England, but there, clubs have declared war on it.”

Interestingly, it was while in England as Newcastle player, that Emre was accused of racially abusing Yobo, then at Everton.

Television cameras appeared to show the former Newcastle man aim a racial slur at Zokora, but the evidence is far from conclusive.

Here’s the footage in question:


All players in Serie B will wear the No.25 shirt in memory of Piermario Morosini who died of a heart attack while playing for Livorno against Pescara at the weekend.

Serie B president Andrea Abodi has confirmed that every player in the competition will wear a shirt with the No.25 stamped on the back.

The Serie B chief went on to say that he is determined to prevent similar tragedies from recurring.

“Our task is to find solutions to save the lives of all those who may suffer from the same problem,” he added.

The announcement came on the same day that Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba was released from hospital just four weeks after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch.

Muamba said: “I am naturally very pleased to be discharged from hospital and would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to every single member of staff at the London Chest Hospital who have played a part in my care.

“Their dedication, professionalism and expertise is simply amazing and I will forever be in their debt. I also wish to say thank you to all the many well-wishers who have sent thousands of messages of support.

“Now I am out of hospital, I am looking forward to continuing my recovery and spending precious time with my family.”