JERUSALEM, April 20 (Reuters) - 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)