Behind the scenes of Beitar Jerusalem bid – Israel Sports

Beitar Jerusalem is one of the most iconic sports franchises in all of Israel and has been at the forefront of the domestic soccer league with some of the most passionate fan bases that the country has ever seen.

Of course, with such a dynamic sports club as Beitar there comes plenty of potential on an international level as well, which at times also involves challenges that need to be overcome.

As various ownership groups have attempted to take Beitar Jerusalem to the top of the mountain time and time again, with mixed success, what differentiates Josh Jacoby and his group of investors that are looking to purchase the team is that there is a plan and mission behind their efforts.

As current owner Moshe Hogeg looks to sell the team, there are two potential ownership groups who seem to have separated themselves from the pack – one being the former owner of Bnei Yehuda, Barak Abramov, and the other being Jacoby’s group.

The Jerusalem Post had the chance to catch up with Jacoby as he discussed his unique vision for the team, his dreams, plans and why he is looking to dive head first into Israeli sports.

Fans of Beitar Jerusalem shout slogans during a match against Bnei Sakhnin as part of the Israeli Premier League, at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem February 10, 2013 (credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)

“My background is in sports business and I have seen what impact sports have made in and around a community,” Jacoby began. “In my mind there is no more iconic club than Beitar Jerusalem to do just that. We want to come in and take this team and further integrate it into the community along with being an “Or La’Goyim” – a light upon the nations – because this team has the potential to do just that. We call this a mission-based investment and we want to invest correctly. This is also a philanthropic project with one that has a mission tied to it.”

Of course, with any sports club in Israel comes a very passionate fan base that wants to be a part of the action and while Beitar’s are colorful to say the least, Jacoby sees them as a key to success.

“I won’t deny there is concern around the supporter groups and I don’t sugar coat that as the investors know what they are getting into. But the fan base and its size have the ability to work hand and hand and in partnership with the club where it can be a “Kiddush Hashem,” a sanctification of God’s name.”

The Monsey, New York, native also looks to use the history of the club to its own benefit as a way to link the past to the present and future with a flavor of North America as well.

“We have met with a number of fan groups to explain the vision to turn this team around. We want to bring it back to its proud history and they understand what we want to do. The fact that I am an American will add a certain aspect to the club as we want to professionalize it and make it more customer friendly, fan friendly and business friendly. This ties into the vision of Ze’ev Jabotinsky of Zionism and identity of the club. I would move to Israel and be on the ground to help manage the club. Working with the fans is a fun part of this project.”

The Yeshiva University graduate began his quest into the work of sports almost two decades ago, thanks to one of the most prominent Major League Baseball players of the day.

“While I was at YU, I met New York Mets star David Wright and I volunteered to help run his foundation, which I have been doing since 2006. Through my work at the foundation I met many people from the sports industry which eventually led me to the NYU Stern Business School. As part of the program I was in, I had the opportunity to intern with the Washington Capitals when their owner, Ted Leonsis, was also in the process of acquiring the Washington Wizards.”

Jacoby continued to enhance his knowledge in the industry when he was with the Mets and was part of the Madison Square Garden Scholars Program which led to a marketing job at MSG, where he was part of the Corporate Partnerships department that included all of the group’s entities, including the New York Rangers and Knicks.

After some significant time in the sports world, Jacoby decided to head back to his alma mater for a few years, which gave him yet another layer of experience that he takes with him to this day

“When I was the executive director at the Yeshiva University High Schools, MTA and Central, I spearheaded the Centennial campaign for the oldest and most well-established institution in the United States.”

However, the sports itch was something that never went away and he then joined a high-tech sports startup and from there moved to the New York Road Runners, which was one of the biggest organizations of its kind in North America, and also ran the New York City Marathon.

From there, Jacoby took a year sabbatical to learn in Jerusalem at Shapell’s Yeshiva and then moved into sports consulting.

“That led me to this incredible project with Beitar Jerusalem and that has totally enveloped me since February. The journey and process to purchase Beitar has been my primary focus and I want this to work out so badly, but regardless of the outcome the journey so far has been amazing.

“Part of the Beitar emblem is a lion, which harkens back to the time I was at MTA as their sports teams were called the Lions. “Lions for Life” is a term that I coined and I clearly take that very seriously as I pursue the acquisition of Beitar Jerusalem.

Jacoby has been able to gather together a unique set of investors who span both Israel and the United States as he has no doubts whatsoever that Beitar is the chance of a lifetime for those interested to get on board.

“The story, and part of our investor deck, tells the history of the team and how massive an entity it is in Israel. The market research says that between 25-30% of soccer supporters in Israel identify themselves as Beitar fans. No one doubts that the potential is there and everyone throughout Israel loves the club and the people in America will understand that as well.

“Sports teams in general operate at a loss in general. Business people do not want to go into something that they will lose on, but we have a plan with building up the youth department. I am a pretty competitive person as well and we want to win on the pitch. Partnering with the fans themselves and raising money, capital and funds, to join us in a literal partnership.

“Even in Year 1 we will be operating properly and once we demonstrate some level of success and the fans are with us, I am confident that we can raise international and local funds as well. Some are hesitant right now, but once we see success, more will come on board.”

Jacoby is riding high as he sees the amazing potential and importance that a sports team like Beitar has.

“Over the course of the past week, since going public with our bid, it has been demonstrated to me to see just how important this club is to Israel and the fact that it is in the media nonstop. I spoke to some children about Beitar and when I did so their faces lit up. I was able to see how impactful sports can be and how they can be integrated into the community. We want to continue using that platform as a tool for education within the communities to help them grow and prosper.”