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Porto wins appeal against exclusion.

7/15/2008 11:56:16 AM

FC Porto has won its battle to keep its place in the Champions League.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected appeals by Portuguese clubs Benfica and Vitoria Guimaraes which sought to kick rival Porto out of Europe's top club competition.

"The appeals filed ... are dismissed,'' CAS said in a statement on its website.

Club officials were not immediately available for comment.

CAS, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, announced its decision after a hearing Monday that lasted more than seven hours.

Its members deliberated until after midnight.

Match fixing

The ruling came after weeks of uncertainty about whether Porto, convicted in Portugal last May of attempting to bribe referees during the 2003-04 season, would be allowed to take its automatic Champions league berth.

Uefa's disciplinary committee last month banned Porto from taking one of Portugal's three places because competition rules state clubs must have a clean record in achieving their qualifying place.

However, the UEFA Appeal Body said a few days later that the disciplinary committee must examine the Porto case again to look at new evidence.

Benfica and Guimaraes, which would have stood to gain from Porto's elimination, challenged that reversal.

The draw for the Champions League third qualifying round is August 4.

There was a precedent for exceptions. AC Milan was barred in 2006 because of an Italian corruption investigation, but won the right to play after an appeal.

It went on to win the Champions League that season.

Platini not happy

Uefa's decision to review its initial decision to ban Porto reportedly angered the body's president, Michel Platini.

"I'm not at all pleased by its (Porto's) inclusion in the Champions League,'' Platini was quoted as saying in an interview with Spanish sports newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

"It follows the letter, but not the spirit, of the law.''

But Uefa spokesman William Gaillard said that the federation accepted the CAS decision.

"CAS is sovereign,'' he said. ``Whatever it decides we will do.''

Portoy was deducted six points in May for trying to bribe referees in two games during the 2003-04 season.

Porto was runaway leader in the Portuguese league and did not appeal against the decision.

Porto won one of the two league games that were investigated and drew the other on its way to clinching the championship title under then coach Jose Mourinho.

Heavy fine

The Portuguese league's disciplinary committee fined the club $240,000 and barred chairman Jorge Pinto da Costa from the bench during matches for two years.

Pinto da Costa has denied the allegations. Mourinho was not mentioned in the charges.

If Porto had been suspended, Guimaraes, which finished third in the league, would have been exempted from the qualifying stage and gone straight to the lucrative group stage alongside league runner-up Sporting Lisbon.

Fourth-place Benfica had also stood to gain from Porto's exclusion by being in the qualifying stage draw instead of entering the Uefa Cup.

Clubs from Portugal earn a minimum of $9.6 million from taking part in the Champions League group stage, according to figures published by Uefa last month.

A[umlaut] 2003 - 2008

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Date:Jul 15, 2008
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