Federation cleared to start Brazilian league

TALES AZZONI AP Sports Writer Published:

SAO PAULO (AP) -- The Brazilian football federation said Thursday it has been successful in its appeal against a club that filed a civil suit trying to be included in the country's first-division league, guaranteeing the championship can start on time this weekend.

Minnow club Icasa was seeking to play in the top flight because one of the four promoted teams last year, Figueirense, used a player who was incorrectly registered. Icasa finished fifth and wanted to take Figueirense's spot, but a sports tribunal court had dismissed its case because the club took too long to appeal.

The federation had already won appeals against civil suits from Portuguesa, which was trying to remain in the top division after being relegated when a sports tribunal stripped points from the club for using a suspended player in the final round last year.

The first division begins on Saturday. Icasa is expected to play its second-division match on Friday.

The league turmoil comes as Brazilian football is under increased scrutiny with the World Cup less than two months away. The country's image has already been tarnished by significant problems with its World Cup preparations.

The Brazilian federation, known locally as CBF, said that Portuguesa and Icasa could face punishment -- including relegation -- for going to civil courts over sports tribunal matters.

The federation said it has already been warned by FIFA that the lawsuits could be a breach of the governing body's statutes and lead to sanctions for clubs and the federation itself. FIFA told the CBF that the federation is responsible for "prohibiting" members from going to civil courts over sports issues.

"The federation had to act against these ongoing lawsuits from clubs not satisfied with the decisions by the sports tribunals," CBF lawyer Carlos Eugenio Lopes said in an interview to Brazil's SporTV on Friday. "If these clubs prevailed, Brazilian football faced a grim future. It could mean that championships would never end because of lawsuits."

Icasa filed a suit because Figueirense used a player that was still legally tied to another club in a match in May last year. But Icasa only found out about it several months later and appealed in December, prompting the tribunal to dismiss the case.

The federation had already been successful against Portuguesa, which wanted to remain in the first division alleging it was not properly advised by the CBF about the suspension of one of its players before the final round last year. After losing four points in the sports tribunal ruling, the club dropped into relegation zone, which meant defending champion Fluminense was able to stay up.

Portuguesa fans and public prosecutors also went to court against the sports tribunal decision against the club, but CBF has prevailed despite some initial court losses.

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