LEGIA Warsaw will fight the decision to exclude them from the Champions League, with Celtic now scheduled to face Maribor of Slovenia in the play-off round next week.
The Polish club's appeal against UEFA's ruling was dismissed yesterday but Legia will now present their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It was also revealed last night that Henning Berg, the Legia manager, had telephoned his Celtic counterpart, Ronny Deila, to have "a powerful conversation" about the controversy.
Legia fielded an ineligible player, Bartosz Bereszynski, in the second leg of their third qualifying round match against the Scottish champions which they won 2-0 to follow a 4-1 first-leg success. Celtic were awarded a 3-0 win and progressed on away goals.
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The appeal was heard by UEFA's control, ethics and disciplinary body with the decision announced yesterday. Dariusz Mioduski, owner of Legia, immediately responded by saying that "football had not won" and that Legia would take the case to the CAS.
"The appeal lodged by the Polish club was rejected and, therefore, the original decision of the UEFA control, ethics and disciplinary Body is confirmed," read a UEFA statement.
"The control, ethics and disciplinary body had sanctioned Legia for fielding a suspended player [Article 18 of the Regulations of the UEFA Champions League, 2014/15 competition, and Article 21 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, 2014 edition] in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round return leg against Celtic FC in Edinburgh on 6 August. That match has been declared as a forfeit, meaning Legia lost 3-0."
Boguslaw Lesnodorski, the Legia president, said: "Negative decision, it's hard even to comment."
Celtic said in a statement: "We have been advised by UEFA of the decision of the UEFA appeals body to dismiss an appeal by Legia Warsaw. We understand that Legia Warsaw may appeal that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. For our part, we can only proceed on the basis of UEFA's decisions and the fixtures announced by them and, therefore, we must now prepare for our match against NK Maribor next week."
The case arose after Legia believed Bereszynski's suspension had been served after he missed both legs of the previous qualifier against St Patrick's Athletic as well as the first leg against Celtic. However, the player had not been registered in the squad to play the Irish side. Legia are now scheduled to play Aktobe of Kazakhstan in the Europa League play-off.
A Legia statement said last night: "Until the last moment we hoped that the spirit of sport wins, we find the decision extremely unfair." However we expected that decision and were prepared
for it. We are to appeal to the CAS promptly."
Berg, the Legia manager, said he had telephoned Deila after the initial UEFA ruling, saying: "It was a powerful conversation between us.
I was disappointed that people in Celtic could not answer emails or phone calls from our club. All they had to do was speak to us - they didn't change their opinion,
so why should they hide it?"
He added: "Celtic surprised me that they could not settle the matter in a different way.
I am convinced Ronny would have liked to have played the game so they could try to beat us on the pitch in a sporting competition."
Berg said of the exclusion from the tournament: "This
is the equivalent of forgetting to pay the electricity bill
and being sentenced
to 20 years behind bars."
Deila now prepares for the
tie against the Slovenian side.
"We have full reports on them. They are a good team, they
are well organised. They are compact and good on the counter attack," he said.
He believed Celtic had to "step up" their performances after the disappointment of both matches against Legia.
He said it was "hard to say" whether Maribor were better than the Poles, adding: "I have not watched them myself in person, but I think it's pretty close. We have to step up
a level, we need to do that."
But he found cause for optimism to face a contest that decides who qualifies for the group stages of the Champions League and the £15m that can bring. "We are now two or three weeks further on. We have played one domestic game and we are back at Celtic Park,"
he said after the Legia match was played at Murrayfield.
"We have got players in also and I am looking forward to the games. I'm just happy that we are getting fixtures now, real matches you can learn from."