Brazil tribunal keeps Fluminense in 1st division

Fluminense will remain in the Brazilian league despite being

relegated on the field, Brazil’s sports tribunal ruled on

Friday.

The tribunal unanimously rejected an appeal by Portuguesa, which

lost four points for using a suspended player in the last

round.

Without the points, Portuguesa dropped below Fluminense in the

20-team standings and has to replace the traditional Rio de Janeiro

club in the second division next year.

A four-time national champion, Fluminense became the first

defending champ to be relegated in the Brazilian league. But it was

saved by a technicality.

The ordeal, however, further embarrassed football in Brazil,

which has recently made headlines for fan violence and the deaths

of workers at World Cup stadiums.

Portuguesa’s suspended player, reserve midfielder Heverton, was

on the field for about 15 minutes.

”Portuguesa made a mistake,” tribunal member Decio Neuhaus

said. ”We need to apply the rules.”

Portuguesa finished with 48 points and advanced to play in next

year’s Copa Sudamericana, but with Friday’s ruling if fell to 44

points, two behind Fluminense.

The club said it was still considering whether to take the case

outside the sports tribunals.

”The tournament isn’t over yet,” Portuguesa President Manuel

da Lupa said. ”We did our part on the field. It’s absurd what is

happening to Portuguesa.”

The tribunal session was broadcast by nearly all sports channels

in Brazil and dozens of fans were cheering outside the courtroom in

Rio de Janeiro.

Portuguesa said it was mistakenly advised by one of its lawyers

that Heverton was suspended for one match instead of two matches.

It also said the suspension shouldn’t have taken effect immediately

because the player’s trial was too close to the final round.

The club also claimed the document announcing the punishment was

officially published only on Monday, a day after the match. The

tribunal said Portuguesa knew of the decision right away because it

was represented at the player’s hearing.

It is not the first time Fluminense has benefited from an

off-the-field ruling to avoid relegation. The club was demoted for

the first time in 1996 but remained in the top flight because of

supposed refereeing irregularities at the time. Fluminense was

relegated again in 1997 and then dropped to the third flight the

following year, but a change in the competition’s format allowed

the club to move straight back into the first division in 2000.

Portuguesa, whose biggest achievement was a runner-up finish in

the 1996 Brazilian league, last played in the second division in

2011.

The tribunal also upheld Flamengo’s four-point loss because of

an alleged irregular use of left back Andre Santos in the league’s

final round, dropping the popular club from 11th to 16th in the

standings, just outside relegation zone with 45 points.

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