Slovak club fights UEFA at CAS over Champions League forfeit

Sports

A member of the UEFA staff carries the Champions League trophy before the semifinal soccer match between RB Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. (David Ramos/Pool Photo via AP)

GENEVA (AP) — Fighting exclusion from the Champions League under new UEFA rules during the coronavirus pandemic, Slovan Bratislava failed to persuade the Court of Arbitration for Sport to stop its previous opponent from playing Wednesday in the next qualifying round.

CAS dismissed Slovan’s request for an urgent interim ruling to postpone the match in Switzerland between Young Boys and KI Klaksvik.

Despite the court decision, announced about three hours before the game, Slovan plans to continue with a full appeal against UEFA after being denied the chance to play at Faeroe Islands champion KI in a twice-postponed game last week.

Public authorities in the Faeroe Islands put two different squads of Slovan’s players into quarantine after they reported virus cases in each group.

Slovan said Wednesday all 35 players tested negative after returning to Slovakia. The club disputed the decision by local authorities in the Faeroe Islands, whose decision-making power to manage suspected COVID-19 cases is granted by recently updated UEFA competition rules.

Slovan had to forfeit the qualifying game as a 3-0 loss.

That verdict — and the subsequent CAS ruling — has sent KI to play Swiss champion Young Boys in the second round of qualifying.

The new season was already delayed by the pandemic and qualifying rounds for this season’s Champions League had to begin before the 2019-20 final was played last Sunday.

Slovan appealed to CAS to freeze the forfeit and postpone the Young Boys-KI game “until CAS has ruled on the merits of the case,” the court said.

The main appeal by Slovan should also be fast-tracked with a CAS verdict needed within two weeks.

The draw for the third qualifying round will be held on Monday for single-leg elimination games scheduled to be played on Sept. 15-16. They could yet include Slovan.

CAS said UEFA, Young Boys and KI were respondents to Wednesday’s hearing appeal and had the chance to reply to Slovan’s arguments.

UEFA declined to comment to The Associated Press.

Slovan is the second club to forfeit a Champions League qualifier this month — and the second to challenge UEFA at CAS — because of virus infections revealed in pre-game testing that is required by European competition rules.

Kosovo champion Drita was quarantined by Swiss authorities and could not play Northern Irish club Linfield in a preliminary round game at a stadium next to UEFA’s headquarters.

Drita, which was not granted a postponement by UEFA to bring in different players, also sought an emergency ruling from CAS. It was also dismissed.

“We are proceeding with the case on the merits,” Drita’s Swiss-based lawyer, Luca Tettamanti, told the AP.

Champions League qualifying will be completed by a playoff round of two-leg series played on back-to-back midweeks between Sept. 22 and 30. The 32-team group stage draw will be made on Oct. 1.

Teams who will begin Champions League qualifying next month include Benfica, Dynamo Kyiv, Olympiakos and Salzburg.

If their Champions League exits are confirmed in court, Slovan and Drita can transfer to the second-tier Europa League.

Both are scheduled to be in Monday’s Europa League draw for games to be played on Sept. 17. UEFA prize money for playing those games is about 100,000 euros ($118,000) less than equivalent games in the Champions League.

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