JERUSALEM, April 15 An Israel Football Association appeal court on Sunday deferred a three-point deduction against Premier League strugglers Maccabi Petah Tikva until next season, easing their relegation plight.
Last week a lower tribunal docked the club three points and suspended a player and a coach as punishment for an on-pitch brawl that broke out following their 2-1 league win against Hapoel Haifa on March 31.
The decision means Petah Tikva will start next season with minus-3 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 appeal court said that in coming to its decision, it had taken the club's good disciplinary record into account.
"Undoubtedly, the small number of the club's previous offences should be considered when weighing the severity of punishment," the judges said in their ruling.
Petah Tikva were also ordered to play their next home game at a distance of at least 50 kilometres from their home base. A fine of 25,000 shekels ($6,666) they incurred was left in place.
In last week's ruling, the court also suspended three Hapoel Haifa players after the ugly scenes led to Haifa striker Ali Hatib being head butted by Petah Tikva goalkeeping coach Ami Genish.
He was barred from all soccer activity for 18 months, while Petah Tikva midfielder Danny Parda was banned for three matches.
Haifa said Hatib had briefly lost consciousness and had required hospital treatment.
Hatib and Haifa team mate Stefan Dankovic were banned for three matches. A third Haifa player, Gal Erel, was banned for two matches and the club was also fined 25,000 shekels.
($1 = 3.75 shekels) (Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Alastair Himmer)
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