Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Adar 5761 - March 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
"If Pinchas Sapir were a Government Minister Today,
He would be Arrested"

by B. Adler

While Torah institutions are subject to incessant scrutiny and are required to demonstrate the highest levels of prudent management, other public organizations receive special consideration in matters tax violations and financial impropriety.

Former Tax Commissioner Yair Rabinovitz has been serving as chairman of the Authority for Budgetary Review in the Soccer League. In a recent interview with Ha'aretz, he revealed a number of interesting facts and made several statements worth quoting. Rabinovitz addressed under-the- table deals in the soccer industry, the forgiving attitude toward athletic team managers and the way various unethical practices are being swept under the carpet.

One of the questions posed to Rabinovitz related to reports about a soldier playing on a sports team--who is supposed have salary limitations--who displays inexplicable prosperity, allowing him to share his wealth, lead a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption and even buy an expensive car as a birthday present. In response, Rabinovitz said, "According to the law a soldier cannot be paid more than NIS 3,000 per month. I have enough experience to know that anywhere a law is imposed, including athletic teams, people try to outwit the law and they do commit certain violations."

When asked how the Authority for Budgetary Review is handling the matter, he replied, "If a team violates the law or if a soldier violates Soccer Union regulations, if the Authority is made aware of the violation and we are able to prove it, then we act. I assume that the army would get involved as well."

The reporter from Ha'aretz did not let him off with that. "But when you read in the papers that a soccer player serving in the military gives a car to someone as a present, what do you do?"

Rabinovitz sidestepped the question. "Am I supposed to hire investigators? The IDF read that story, too, and what did they do about it?"

Rabinovitz was also asked about irregularities and financial impropriety in soccer teams and suspicious acts that were reported but did not lead to police investigation, trial or punitive measures, but instead were wrapped up with the only the firing or forced resignation of the managers. "This approach creates an atmosphere in which individuals can get away with anything by just slipping away quietly after the fact," the interviewer points out, to which Rabinovitz replied, "To be fired is no trivial matter.

"I don't think it's such a great honor that someone would want to get fired," he explained, "since with people in privileged positions, whose status in the soccer world cannot be ignored, we tried to work for just removing them from their positions, and allow them to leave in a dignified manner."

Trying to unravel the meaning of this, the interviewer asked whether the idea is to create a sort of intermediate status of "a sentence without a trial." Rabinovitz confirms the assessment. "That's exactly what we were aiming at. When all is said and done, every person in a privileged position is given the opportunity to make a dignified exit. Bigger offenders are given a chance to speak up. We decided that the man in question justified more delicate handling, and so we gave him a chance to resign. We are not out to punish people, we are just trying to maintain order." He also admitted that there was pressure "from all sides" to overlook the violations.

Rabinovitz also said he is aware that money passes under the table in the sports industry, which benefits from official government funding, and is supposed to be under tight supervision. "I'm sure some money slips into the pockets of private individuals as well," he said. "With money jangling in management pockets, players can be paid outside the framework of their contracts. I believe this practice is limited, but it does exist."

He says he expects the authorities to be more alert in this area, and points to a common example. "Monetary contributions pass under the table, but this is not a case of money-laundering. Once I gave a lecture at Tel Aviv University, and a well-known mayor gave a lecture before me and told the audience that he would not continue to grant real estate easements to contractors who make donations to soccer teams. What he was saying was a criminal act, but I didn't hear about anyone handcuffing him and taking him away."

Later in the interview the former tax commissioner explained that the problem of the team managers who were caught for financial impropriety lies in the "change in societal norms" which caught them unprepared.

This description is reminiscent of a famous statement by a senior U.S. government official several decades ago. He was arrested after doing what everyone else was doing at the time, dipping into public coffers, until one day he suddenly realized that they had decided to tempt him to violate the law. When the handcuffs were placed around his wrists he blurted out, "Those scoundrels changed the rules and didn't bother to tell anyone!"

This is the tone of Rabinovitz's explanations that a high- ranking figure in the field of sports who was caught for misconduct was acting like someone from a previous era. "If, for example, Pinchas Sapir were a government minister today, he would have been investigated and arrested, because norms have changed. What was accepted practice back then is shunned today. He acted according to norms that were accepted in the past, but today these norms are no longer acceptable. The norms have changed but he hasn't."

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