Sunday, June 22, 2008

Celebrations at FC Porto: The club will not be banned for the next Champions League Season

Portuguese club FC Porto are set to play in next season's European Champions League, Portuguese news agency Lusa reported on Monday, despite an initial UEFA decision to bar them for being found guilty in a match-fixing scandal.

European football's ruling body UEFA overturned their own decision to ban the 2004 continental champions from next season's Champions League on Friday just because of a procedural error but shelved the decision on whether they could play in the 2008/09 season.

In fact, Porto won this season's Portuguese league easily to automatically qualify for the group stages.

Lusa, quoting an unnamed UEFA official, added that the European body would only re-examine the case if the club was sanctioned by the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF).

The national federation, however, are not set to look into the case, involving the attempted corruption of referees, before the start of the 2008/09 edition of club football's richest and most prestigious competition, UEFA claimed.

The UEFA official, quoted by Lusa, said: "In the case that the matter is not looked into by the Portuguese federation before the start of the Champions League (2008/09 competition), it will not be studied by UEFA's disciplinary commission." This effectively means Porto would be free to compete.

But the press office of the Portuguese federation said later on Monday they had not communicated to UEFA any particular time scale for the re-examining of the affair.

The FPF, which received a fax of UEFA's decision on Monday, overturning an initial ruling to exclude Porto from next season's Champions League, said it was UEFA themselves who came to these conclusions (that the case would not be re-examined in Portugal till the start of next season's competition).

UEFA wrote, according to the FPF, that because of "the complexity of the matter, it would be difficult for (Portuguese) judicial sporting governing body to take any decision before the start of the competition." The draw takes place on August 1.

The internet site of sporting daily A Bola quoted William Gaillard, advisor to UEFA president Michel Platini, saying a possible exclusion of Porto from the competition could happen no earlier than the 2009/2010 season.

UEFA barred Porto from next season's competition on May 9 after the disciplinary commission of the Portuguese league found them guilty and fined the club 150,000 euros, docked them six points and suspended the club's president Jorge Pinto da Costa for two years for their part in events dating back to 2004.

Porto were assured of winning this year's league title by 14 points, even with the six-point penalty, and the club decided not to appeal the league's sanction.

AS we know, Porto's exclusion would have meant third-placed Vitoria Guimaraes qualified directly for the group stages and Benfica had a berth in the third qualifying round.

Despite that, UEFA decided to overturn their decision to ban Porto and to refer the matter back to the Portuguese sporting authorities for re-examination because of an initial procedural error.

It's important to mention that UEFA believed Vitoria Guimaraes and Benfica, who finished third and fourth in the league, should, along with Porto, have also come before the Portuguese authorities.