Hapoel Katamon is the first fan owned club in Israel, which broke off from its main branch, Hapoel Jerusalem, five years ago. They are the first example in our series of posts on teams that broke off from the mother ship, not because of desire for success and titles, but for creating something purer, with more than just football in mind.
About five years ago, a groundbreaking project began in Israeli football – A fan owned team. Nothing new around the world, with clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid recognized as fan owned teams (although they are a bit different) and most of the Bundesliga going down that road, in someway at least.
The story begins when a large group of fans from the minor Jerusalem team, Hapoel Jerusalem, a team identified with the socialist left and the red color, had enough with the way the team was managed by those in charge. They broke off from the team, founding a new club – Hapoel Katamon Jerusalem. Katamon is a neighborhood in Jerusalem.
Each fan has the right to buy a share in the club, which grants him a season ticket and a voting privilege when things of concern go up for vote.
The first three years weren’t a great success on the field. The team did average around 3000 fans in their home games, playing in the third division in Israel, more than some of the Premier League teams in the country bring, but the team failed to win promotion during the first three seasons of existence.
A re-organization of the project, including somewhat of reboot for the club, which included starting from scratch and the fifth division followed. Since then? Nothing but magic. The club was promoted twice in two years, returning to the third division (Liga Alef) and might be playing in the Leumit, the equivalent of the Championship in England, in 2012-2013. They’re currently leading the Southern division by 3 points, battling with Maccabi Yavne for a place in the Leumit.
But there’s more than just football to the club. Values such as equality, fair play, denouncing violence, and coexistence between Arabs and Jews are just as important to many of the owners as actual success on the pitch is. By organizing tournaments for children from Jewish and Arab neighborhoods of the city and a vast volunteering network, many of the fans actually do try and create a better place.