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Post by Scottish » Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:46 pm

Like Australia and Kazakhstan (and arguably Cyprus), Israel is affiliated to a continental association other than its “natural” one. The difference here is that its position in UEFA is by dint of politics rather than a desire for sporting betterment, as most Arab countries refuse to recognise the state. Israel were actually founder members of the Asian confederation in 1954.

Israeli football is organised into a five-level structure with the top two tiers national ones. The top level Premier League has fourteen teams and institutes a split after they’ve all met twice. Unusually this is in a 6-8 format. The top six play each other twice further but the bottom eight play just once, thus creating a home and away imbalance. Play-off fixtures are published at the start of the season by allocating them to final league positions. The bottom two go down automatically.

Last season’s average of 5,511 put Israel 38th in the world and exactly half that – 19th – in Europe. If they were in their “proper” Asian confederation they would be in tenth place (eleventh if you include Australia). Highest gate was 29,000 and lowest 250. Best supported Maccabi Tel Aviv come in at 324th in the world.

There is a preponderance of clubs with the prefixes ‘Maccabi’ and ‘Hapoel’ which can be baffling at times. The former is a sporting association which takes its name from Jewish rebels who fought against the Greek dynasties established in the Middle East by the Generals of Alexander The Great. Imagine Scottish clubs called Pictish this and Pictish that and you’ll get the – ahem – picture.

Hapoel, on the other hand, was established as a working class and trade unionist sports organisation in direct opposition to the nationalist Maccabi except oddly enough in football.

Of the other common names, Beitar refers to the Zionist youth movement. Bnei Sakhnin are an Israeli Arab club and Ashdod are that rare thing – a merger of existing Maccabi and Hapoel clubs.

So the roots of Israeli football teams can be seen from their respective nomenclature as most Israeli clubs display the badge of one or the other.

12765 Maccabi Tel Aviv
9920 Beitar Jerusalem
9875 Hapoel Tel Aviv
9592 Maccabi Haifa
7615 Hapoel Be’re Sheva
4992 Bnei Yehuda
4146 Hapoel Haifa
3831 Bnei Sakhnin
2999 Hapoel Ironi Acre
2885 Maccabi Petah Tikvah
2465 FC Ashdod
2154 Hapoel Ra’anana
2019 Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona
1196 Hapoel Ramat HaSharon

The second national level has sixteen clubs which splits into two groups of eight after each club has played the other twice. They carry all points gained forward and play each other once more, creating an imbalance of nineteen home matches for half the group and eighteen for the other half. The promotion group sees the top two go up. In the relegation group the bottom two go down and third last into a play-off against the winners of the third level play-offs.

I have no figures outside the top level.

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