The Football Industry in Israel

Football is considered to be one the most popular sports played in Israel.  Football as an organized sport, also known as “soccer” in North America was first developed in the UK. In regards to the history of football in Israel, the Israel Football Association (IFA) had joined the Asian Football Confederation in 1954 but was expelled in 1974 due to political pressure from Arab and Muslim members in the context of the Arab–Israeli conflict. The Israel Football Association is the governing body of football in the State of Israel. All of Israel’s professional football clubs must be members, and hundreds of semi-professional and amateur clubs also belong to this association. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Israel Football Association was still not affiliated with any football confederation. During this same period, the Israeli national teams were only playing in FIFA competitions occasionally in OFC, UEFA and CONMEBOL qualifying tournaments. Finally, the Israel Football Association was admitted to UEFA as an associate member in 1992 and as a full member in 1994, therefore their teams now compete as part of Europe in all international competitions.

As of the 2013–14 footballing season, the Israeli football league system has five levels with 16 different divisions, all are run by the IFA. Promotion and relegation operate between each level, theoretically allowing clubs to progress from bottom to top within four seasons. The five levels are the Israeli Premier League, the Liga Leumit, the Liga Alef, the Liga Bet, and the Liga Gimel. There are also two major cup competitions in Israel such as the State Cup, and the Toto Cup. The State Cup can be considered the Israeli equivalent to the English FA Cup and is open to all Israeli clubs to participate in, with clubs at the higher levels entering in the later more advanced rounds. The final is played at the Ramat Gan Stadium and the winner qualifies for the UEFA Europa League. The Toto Cup, on the other hand, is the Israeli equivalent of the English League Cup, the main difference being that there is a separate cup for each of the three national divisions. The cup is played first in a group stage phase, with the highest placed teams qualifying for the knock-out stages. Like the State Cup, the final is played at the National Stadium, although the winner does not qualify for the UEFA Europa League.

Football in Israel has grown in prominence because of how easy it is to play football, you do not require extensive equipment. It is not a lot easier to learn football from online sources such as YouTube instruction videos and soccer training videos. Israeli startups have also been busy influencing the global football game with innovations in the practicing, playing and analyzing performance, betting, fan engagement, broadcasting and marketing of football. The institute and the Economy Ministry recently took 13 startups on a week-long “road show” to present their products to executives from the NBA (basketball), NFL (football), NHL (ice hockey), and MLB (baseball) and to individual teams, venture capitalists and companies such as Twitter, HTC and Sony. The trip to New York and San Francisco was modeled on a similar roadshow last year during which 20 Israeli startups met representatives of the British sports industry in London and Manchester. In both cases, the sports execs had chosen beforehand which ones they wanted to meet. However, it is important to keep in mind that many of the products of special interest to this sector aren’t specific to sports, for example, ABonAir’s wireless transmitters for filming and production; Apester’s premium storytelling platform; Gigya’s system for increasing subscriptions and client acquisition; Join’s viral marketing platform; AposTherapy’s noninvasive device for treating foot injuries; and Datorama’s marketing business intelligence.

In conclusion, Israel is contributing healthily to the global football industry, both in their football contribution on the field and in their contributions off of the field with innovations in technology and marketing.

About the Author
Frank Coutinho is passionate about business and entrepreneurship. After studying Business Management at university he started his own e-commerce company. He enjoys reading the daily business news, especially news on startups and the technology industry. In his free time, Frank enjoys reading, soccer, hiking, and watching documentaries.