Champions League lifeline for United


Soccer:Manchester United could still be involved in the last 16 of the Champions League after Fifa today threatened to suspend Switzerland over the case involving first division club Sion.

The Swiss FA was given a deadline of January 13th to follow Fifa’s instructions or face a ban which would also result in FC Basel being expelled from the Champions League and a possible reinstatement of last year’s beaten finalists.

The Swiss champions dumped United out of the Champions League and into the Europa Cup, earning a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford before winning the home leg 2-1.

“Should this deadline not be respected, the Swiss FA will be automatically suspended from 14 January 2012 onwards,” the statement said.

If suspended, Switzerland - due to host Argentina in a friendly in February - would not be able to play any international matches and FC Basel would be unable to take part in the Champions League round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich.

Euro 2012 would not be affected, however, as Switzerland did not qualify for the finals.

The warning follows a complex legal battle in which Sion defied Fifa and Uefa statutes by taking its case over a transfer ban to a civil court.

The case began when Sion signed six players in the summer while still subject to the transfer ban for poaching a player from an Egyptian club in 2008.

The six players took their case to a civil court in the canton of Valais, which ruled they could play. Sion subsequently fielded them in the Swiss league.

Some of the players appeared in a Europa League qualifying tie against Celtic. Sion won the tie but were then expelled from the competition by Uefa who ruled the players were ineligible.

Sion then obtained an injunction at another court in the canton of Vaud, where Uefa’s headquarters are based, ordering European soccer's governing body to reinstate them to the competition.

However, this injunction referred the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) which on Thursday ruled in favour of Uefa.

In the meantime, the injunction obtained by the players in Valais canton was also overturned by a higher court.

Fifa now wants the Swiss League to award 3-0 defeats against Sion in every domestic match in which any of the six players were fielded.

“The executive committee decided to give a final deadline of January 13 to the Swiss FA to enforce the registration ban imposed on Sion....and to sanction the attitude of the club repeatedly trying to circumvent this decision in a legally abusive manner," said Fifa.

“As a consequence, all matches in which the relevant players participated shall be declared forfeit or three points shall be deducted respectively.”