Brazilian club faces exclusion for abandoning game

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SAO PAULO (AP) - Brazil’s sports tribunal says the club that abandoned a second-division match claiming it had a court order allowing it to play in the top flight could face exclusion from the championship.

Portuguesa players left the field in the 16th minute of their match against Joinville on Friday after a court official showed up and presented the ruling to team officials and referees.

The Brazilian football federation said the court order wasn’t valid because it was issued by a judge without jurisdiction over the case.

The attorney general at the country’s top sports tribunal said charges against Portuguesa are expected to be filed next week.

“Portuguesa shouldn’t have left the pitch,” Paulo Schmitt told Brazilian reporters. “It will be subjected to punishment that ranges from loss of points to a fine or even exclusion. The tribunal will have to analyze the match reports.”

Portuguesa officials said the club shouldn’t face any punishment because it could not disobey the judicial order presented by the court official.

Portuguesa and its fans have been filing lawsuits in civil courts trying to get reinstated to the top division of the Brazilian league that begins on Saturday. The club avoided demotion on the field last year but was relegated after the sports tribunal stripped it of four points for using a suspended player in the final round. Officials said the Brazilian federation did not properly advise the club of the suspension.

Friday’s court ruling gave the points back to Portuguesa and voided its relegation, but it was not recognized by the Brazilian federation, which has overturned similar decisions recently. The federation said the first-division matches would be played as scheduled this weekend.

The federation released a statement saying the judge’s ruling on Friday “disrespected” a higher court’s determination that all decisions regarding the case must be handled by a court in Rio de Janeiro.

Joinville officials said the club would have to reimburse fans who attended the match, which was stopped with the score at 0-0. The club could seek damages and also wanted to be awarded the three points for the victory.

The league turmoil comes as Brazilian football is under increased scrutiny with the World Cup less than two months away.

The Brazilian federation 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.

Portuguesa’s demotion last year kept traditional Rio de Janeiro club Fluminense from becoming the first defending champion from being relegated in the Brazilian league.

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