It’s not the kind of path you expect to walk down, but rules are rules. Celtic are back in the running for the Champions League Group Stage after being handed a second chance at the expense of their conquerors, Legia Warsaw.
At what stage UEFA became aware of Legia Warsaw’s breach of rules is uncertain. Having glanced over their rules last night, this mornings 9am meeting in Nyon appeared to be a mere formality.
Multiple attempts by the media to draw a comparison with Legia’s situation to that of Debreceni VSC’s in 2010, when they fielded an ineligible player, was nothing more than lazy journalism. The rules affecting each case aren’t even in the same category, but it only goes to show how much unverified nonsense gets passed from one media outlet to another.
Debreceni VSC fielded an ineligible player in 2010 against Bulgarian side, PFC Litex Lovech. Péter Máté was deemed ineligible because he was not on the official list submitted to UEFA whereas Bartosz Bereszyński had only served part of his suspension.
In the case of Bereszyński:
* “A match is declared forfeit if a player who has been suspended following a disciplinary decision participates in the match”
In the case of Máté:
* “A match may be declared forfeit if a player who is ineligible participates in the match, as long as the opposing team files a protest”
Máté was not suspended, just not on the official list submitted UEFA. Bereszyński was on the official list submitted to UEFA, but also suspended.
Despite the obvious screw up or misunderstanding by Legia Warsaw only they are culpable here. There may be zero advantage in Bereszyński’s appearance but the breach is clear.
The fact that the forfeit is to award the opposition a 3-0 win is only part of it. Had the Pole’s actually scored either of their penalties from the first leg they would still have gone through.
Hard luck for them considering Celtic go through on the away goals rule 4-4 on aggregate. They can’t have any complaints though.
This morning Sky Sports News were pedalling the same nonsense that the BBC (amongst others media outlets) were last night. Only those who chose to research UEFA rules or even read them knew that unless this was UEFA’s own error, the rules were clearly broken by Legia Warsaw.
As it turns out he Polish team have chosen to appeal the decision. They have stated that the punishment is disproportionate to the breach of rules.
Not wishing to jump the gun here, I cannot see this being overturned. Any teams who have been punished previously would be up in arms i.e. FC Arsenal Kyiv’s (though they are now dissolved!) forfeit to ND Mura 05 in 2012.
With all that to one side Celtic now find themselves facing Maribor in a Champions League play off. This change of fortunes guarantees European football for the club whether they overcome the Slovenian champions or not.
At this stage I am not fussy though obviously, I’d prefer Celtic to avoid further humiliation! The question most fans are asking is that with European football guaranteed until December, will the club supply Ronny Deila with funds to strengthen the squad?
In the past the club have been prudent to the point where they haven’t bought a player until a Champions League position has been secured. Although that competition is assured, the Europa League is.
If the Celtic board are as good as our bank balance suggests, then they’ll already know the projected income from a Europa League campaign. Should income be the dictating factor in transfer funds, then Celtic can surely start spending now.
The other question is the future of the current squad. The rumours around our key players will surely be cast in doubt now that Europe is secures until Christmas.
With that in mind, does it be any better? Well yes it does actually.
In the last 24 hours, HMRC announced their decision to appeal in the “Big Tax Case”. Whilst they may not succeed with this, the odds are in still their favour going by previous cases.
As I said at the beginning, rules are rules and down The Celtic Way, we like to play by them as well as remind people of them. Celtic may have gotten lucky here but they lost fair and square and still won in the end!
Sadly, elsewhere in Scotland we saw Aberdeen and St Johnstone exit European competition last night after a valiant effort by both clubs. This leaves Celtic as the only Scottish club flying the flag in Europe this season.
Not unusual, but once again, not great for the coefficient either. Keep the green flag flying high.
* thanks to moravcik67 from the Kerrydale Street forum for highlighting the UEFA rules last night