- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

SAO PAULO (AP) - Brazil’s championship will start as scheduled this weekend after the Brazilian football federation succeeded in its appeal against a club that filed a civil suit trying to be included in the country’s first division.

Icasa, a modest club from the country’s northeast, was seeking to take a place in the top flight because one of the four teams promoted from Serie B 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 dismissed its case because the club took too long to appeal.

The federation however had a legal setback later Thursday when Portuguesa was successful in the latest stage of its legal challenge to be reincluded in the top division. Portuguesa was relegated last season when a sports tribunal stripped points from the club for using a suspended player in the final round.

Despite the legal victory, Portuguesa said it will play its second-division match this weekend to avoid disrupting the tournament. But it guaranteed that it will keep fighting for its spot in the top flight. The federation has already dismissed a similar decision that favored Portuguesa recently.

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 over the heads of sports tribunals and taking their cases to civil courts.

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.

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