Galatasaray fears Champions League ban

April 4, 2012

Turkish league leader Galatasaray fears being expelled from next season's Champions League by UEFA if national football leaders fail to address match-fixing allegations implicating other clubs.

Galatasaray director Sedat Dogan told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his club should not be punished, and lose expected ?40 million ($52.5 million) revenue from Champions League matches, just because Turkish officials failed to act.

''We must not be held responsible for an omission or neglect of the Turkish Football Federation body,'' said Dogan, who has formally asked the TFF's independent disciplinary unit to resolve cases which emerged nine months ago.

Dogan said he is ''afraid'' that UEFA - which has pledged a zero-tolerance fight against match-fixing - could step in and simply suspend all Turkish clubs from its competitions.


Galatasaray ''is ready for everything in any moment'' and would weigh eventual legal action at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Dogan said.

Galatasaray is not involved in an ongoing criminal trial involving 93 officials, players and coaches, including the president of reigning champion Fenerbahce who is accused of helping fix matches during the team's late-season title surge. Fenerbahce was barred from this season's Champions League as a result of the investigation.

Verdicts are not expected for many months - long after UEFA's June 1 deadline for national federations to enter clubs for next season's lucrative Champions League and second-tier Europa League competitions.

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino said last month in Istanbul that it would intervene if the TFF's disciplinary body fails to take any action by the registration deadline.

''The end of May to decide is too late. There must be some decision. We must have enough time to protect ourselves,'' Dogan said.

Galatasaray's anxiety is rising while poised to reach the elite 32-team group stage of the Champions League for the first time in six seasons.

Turkey has earned an automatic group-stage place for its champion, and a berth in the third qualifying round for its league runner-up, under UEFA's formula of allocating entries according to each country's results over a five-year cycle.

Galatasaray will take a clear points lead into a championship-deciding four-team playoff system which was devised this season to guard against manipulation of results.

In addition, the 17-time champion's three playoff rivals - Fenerbahce, Trabzonspor and Beziktas - all face sanctions if the TFF finally processes the stalled disciplinary cases. Mandatory relegation to the second-tier has been suggested as a sentencing option.

While the criminal burden of proof is ''beyond reasonable doubt,'' sports cases can be decided to a judge's ''comfortable satisfaction.''

Dogan said the federation has access to the same files as prosecutors in the criminal case.

''They have all kinds of evidence, they have all the authority, they have to decide,'' he said.

With football the top sport in Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan weighed in last week to oppose relegating clubs.

Erdogan said he favored a blanket ban from UEFA competitions, as English clubs endured from 1985-90 when persistent hooliganism resulted in the Heysel Stadium tragedy.

However, Dogan said that policy would punish Galatasaray's status and finances twice over, in losing its likely Champions League place and competing in a devalued domestic league.

Dogan said the Istanbul club's investments - in coach Fatih Terim and international players, including Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, Sweden forward Johan Elmander and Spain winger Albert Riera - were geared toward UEFA's competitions.

''Maybe we have to cancel our expensive contracts with some players,'' he said. ''It's too much for the Turkish league.''