After a number of twists and turns, the FC Porto saga came to a close. At least for this season !
UEFA, European football’s governing body, issued the following statement: “As communicated on Friday 13 June, the disciplinary case regarding FC Porto and their entry to the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League season has been referred back to the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body. However, following the written grounds as sent by the UEFA Appeals Body, it can now be confirmed that FC Porto will be admitted to the UEFA Champions League in season 2008/09. This is essentially due to the proceedings in Portugal not having been finally concluded.”
Porto could yet lose the right to play in European club competition in the 2009-10 season if the are proven guilty of the bribery allegations against them. The allegations date back to the 2003-04 season when Porto won the league and allegedly tried to bribe referees in two matches.
The Portuguese league acted last month on prosecutors’ information gathered in a long-running criminal inquiry, known as Golden Whistle. It deducted six points from Porto and suspended club chairman Jorge Pinto da Costa for two years.
UEFA has now decided that Porto must be allowed to play because the bribery case hearings in Portugal will not be finished by August 1 when the draw is made for the Champions League third qualifying round. FC Porto’s reinstatement means that they and Sporting Lisbon, which placed second in the Portuguese league, will go directly into the Champions League group stage which is worth millions of dollars in guaranteed prize money. Guimaraes, which finished third, must play through a qualifying round tie if they hope to join the other two. Fourth-placed Benfica, which also stood to benefit from a Porto ban, must instead enter the UEFA Cup, which is less financially rewarding.