| JERUSALEM, April 20
JERUSALEM, April 20 A violent on-pitch brawl at
the end of a second division match on Friday prompted the Israel
Football Association to cancel the rest of the weekend's league
fixtures in the two top divisions.
Fighting broke out between players and club officials of
second division leaders Bnei Lod and Hapoel Ramat Gan, their
nearest rivals. The two clubs were battling for a lone promotion
spot to the Premier League and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
"After consulting with Sports Minister Limor Livnat, the
chairman of the Israel Football Association decided that all
fixtures in the Premier League and the second division this
weekend should not be held," an Israeli FA statement said.
The incident was captured at the end of a live broadcast and
over a dozen players and club officials could be seen
participating in the free-for-all with punches and kicks flying
in all directions.
A police officer at the scene said detectives would use
video footage to identify culprits.
Israeli FA chairman Avi Luzon said he had taken the rare
step of stopping the matches because he feared that the recent
rise in violence at soccer matches could lead to a loss of life.
"I am stopping the matches, I don't want us to reach a
situation where somebody could possibly be killed," Luzon told
Channel 2 television.
He added that he would convene a meeting of law enforcement
officers and other senior officials next week to consider moves
to stop a recent spike in soccer violence in Israel.
No new date has yet been set for the cancelled fixtures.
The incident was the second in the Israeli game in less than
a month during a season that has turned into one of the most
rowdy in recent memory and has resulted in five teams being
docked points for various offences.
In another clash, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Haifa
players and club officials fought at the end of their Premier
League fixture on March 31. A Haifa player needed hospital
treatment and Petah Tikva were docked three points but the
punishment was deferred to next season.
(Editing by John Mehaffey)