NYON: Arsenal have landed in a disciplinary minefield not of their own making after having been drawn against Fenerbahce of Turkey in the play-off round of the Champions League later this month, writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The Istanbul club were handed a two-year ban from European competition in June over match-fixing allegations but were later reinstated pending an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the supreme court of international sport.
Fenerbahce, runners-up in Turkey last season, are scheduled to host Arsenal on August 20 or 21 with the return in North London a week later, two days before the group stage draw.
CAS has said a verdict will be delivered by August 28 but European federation UEFA has indicated that no decision has yet been taken about what might happen should Fenerbahce beat Arsenal but lose their appeal.
Austrian club Salzburg would hope for a play-off opportunity after having lost 4-2 on aggregate to the Turks in the third qualifying round.
Initially Fenerbahce were banned by UEFA for two seasons with a third suspended for five years pending ‘good behaviour.’ Fenerbahce appealed to UEFA which maintained the two-season ban but lifted the suspended third. Hence the decision to go to CAS.
The row goes back to 2011 when Fenerbahce won the Turkish title with a 4-3 win over Sivasspor in their last match. However this was laer one of a dozen games investigated by the Turkish federation over matchfixing allegations.
In July last year a Turkish court convicted 93 defendants, including Fenerbahce chairman Aziz Yildirim, club executives and players, in connection with the case. Yildirim was sentenced to more than six years in prison but was freed in bail pending appeal.
He and Fenerbahce fans claimed that they had been the victims of dirty dealing by political and construction rivals.
Two months before that, the TFF imposed bans of between one and three years on 10 players and officials but did not take action against any clubs after an easing of the law relating to sporting fraud. The indictment had named eight clubs, including Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Trabzonspor and 14 players among the defendants.
All the documents were analysed by UEFA in its most recent review of the case.
Similarly uncertain is the tie between Schalke and Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv. The Ukrainian club also risks expulsion over an old matchfixing case.
Play-off stage draw
Lyon v Real Sociedad
Schalke v FC Metalist Kharkiv
Paços de Ferreira (Por) v Zenit St Petersburg
PSV Eindhoven v AC Milan
Fenerbahçe v Arsenal
Dinamo Zagreb v FK Austria
Ludogorets Razgrad (Bul) v FC Basel
Viktoria Plzeň (Cze) v NK Maribor (Slovenia)
Shakhter Karagandy (Kaz) v Celtic
Steaua Bucharest v Legia Warsaw