UEFA disqualified Metalist Kharkiv from the Champions League on Wednesday for links to match-fixing in Ukraine, and could now reinstate PAOK Thessaloniki.
World football’s most prized club competition has further legal issues with another team, Fenerbahce, also fighting expulsion over a years-old domestic match-fixing case as it prepares to play Arsenal in the playoffs next week.
Metalist is also likely to challenge UEFA’s verdict with an urgent appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The Ukrainian club was scheduled to play Schalke next Wednesday in the first leg of the playoff round, after eliminating PAOK 3-1 on aggregate in the third qualifying round last week.
UEFA must now decide whether to reprieve PAOK, which is scheduled to play in the Europa League playoffs next week, or give Schalke a bye to the lucrative 32-team group stage.
The UEFA Emergency Panel, composed of five members of the UEFA Executive Committee, was meeting later Wednesday “to consider the consequences of the decision on the competition,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.
Metalist could also ask CAS to freeze sanctions while the case is processed, allowing its debut Champions League campaign to continue.
It was scheduled to host Schalke in the return match on Aug. 27, with the winner advancing to the groups draw in Monaco two days later.
UEFA charged Metalist last week after CAS upheld sports director Yevhen Krasnikov’s five-year ban, imposed by the Ukrainian Football Federation. Krasnikov allegedly helped fix a 2008 Ukrainian league match against Karpaty Lviv.
UEFA’s Champions League rules require clubs not to have been involved in fixing matches since April 2007, when its legal statutes were updated.
Fenerbahce officials were convicted in a Turkish criminal trial of helping fix matches during the team’s successful run to the national league title in 2011.
UEFA banned Fenerbahce in June from two seasons of European club competitions, but the sanction was frozen pending an appeal at CAS. Fenerbahce eliminated Salzburg in the third qualifying round to earn a playoff against Arsenal. The first leg is in Istanbul next Wednesday.
CAS is preparing to set a hearing date for Fenerbahce’s appeal and aims to give a verdict before the draw in Monaco.
Metalist, which was bought last December by new owners reportedly connected to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, also is seeking a legal fixture at Switzerland’s highest court.
The club has asked the Swiss Federal Tribunal to examine the 250-page CAS ruling which upheld Krasnikov’s ban, in a case which saw several former Karpaty players banned from three to five years. Judges can overturn the sports court’s ruling if legal process was abused.
Metalist had hoped UEFA would reach a similar verdict to one it pronounced in June on a third Champions League playoff club whose officials were implicated in corruption.
Steaua Bucharest president Gigi Becali had a criminal conviction upheld by a Romanian appeal court in June. Among the charges, he was accused of paying bribes in 2008 to another club to play well against one of Steaua’s rivals for the league title.
Cleared to enter the Champions League, the 1986 European Cup winner will host Legia Warsaw in the first leg next Wednesday.