ISTANBUL - The Turkish Football Federation
has barred Fenerbahce from this season's Champions League under
pressure from UEFA in connection with a match-fixing
investigation involving the top Istanbul club, the federation
said on Wednesday.
They will be replaced by Trabzonspor, the league runners-up
last season on goal difference.
The decision is a further blow for the Turkish league which
is reeling from a court investigation of match-fixing
allegations involving some of the country's top clubs.
More than 30 players and officials have been jailed pending
trial, including the Fenerbahce chairman Aziz Yildirim and the
coach and deputy chairman of Besiktas, in connection with
alleged manipulation in 19 matches.
UEFA had written to the federation (TFF) on Tuesday saying
Fenerbahce must withdraw from the Champions League or the TFF
should take the decision to bar them or face a disciplinary
investigation, the federation statement said.
The European governing body later announced that Trabzonspor
would take their place.
"The [UEFA emergency] panel considered that the Turkish
Football Federation took the right decision to protect the game,
fully in line with our zero-tolerance policy against
match-fixing," said UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino.
"The TTF has shown with this decision that it takes full
responsibility in the fight against corruption.
The TTF, which took the decision at an extraordinary board
meeting on Wednesday ahead of Thursday's Champions League draw,
has already postponed the start of the Turkish season by a month
until September 9 so its ethics committee can investigate the
The federation said last week it would not take decisions
regarding those clubs linked to the investigation until the
court has accepted the indictment and lifted a secrecy rule.
In the meantime last season's results stand, with Fenerbahce
confirmed as champions.
A UEFA official visited Turkey this week and met with the
federation and prosecutor in the match-fixing case to collect
information on the investigation.
In a bid to shake off the negative impact of the
investigation, the federation had announced on Tuesday plans to
boost clubs' earnings and revitalise the league by deciding the
Turkish first division title with a play-off at the end of this
That decision was announced after a meeting between the
Turkish Football Federation (TFF) and the chairmen of the first
"A play-off system will be in effect in the 2011/12 season.
We will try this. We hope it will be lasting," TFF chairman
Mehmet Ali Aydinlar told reporters after the meeting.
Under the plan, the top four teams in the league will face
each other in a play-off. Media reports said the plan was based
on the Belgian model and came amid fears of falling revenues as
a result of the match-fixing investigation.
"It may be dropped in future years but we believe that this
will liven things up. We think clubs will earn more money. We
want to make football more attractive," Aydinlar said.
Chairman Aydinlar said after Tuesday's meeting that the
federation had proposed the play-off system to the clubs, which
had welcomed it, although Galatasaray had some reservations.
"We expect this system to bring a fresh breath of air to our
football," he said.
Trabzonspor, who have never played in the Champions League
proper before, initially took part in the third qualifying round
and lost to Benfica.
That sent them into a Europa League qualifier against
Athletic Bilbao where they drew 0-0 last week. UEFA said
Athletic would now qualify directly for the Europa League.
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