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Celtic reject Legia appeal to 'spirit of fair play'

CELTIC have refused to countenance Legia Warsaw's request for a meeting after their co-owner, Dariusz Mioduski, wrote an open letter to the Scottish champions asking them to reconsider which of the two clubs should take part in the play-off round of the Champions League.

The plea from Legia came after Zbigniew Boniek, the president of the Polish Football Association, revealed he had spoken to Michel Platini, the UEFA president, and the Frenchman had admitted that if Celtic were willing to drop into the Europa League then Legia could be reinstated to take on Slovenia's NK Maribor for a place in the group stage of the Champions League. Boniek accused the Parkhead club of "hiding behind a bush" and said Celtic did not have the courage to answer calls from Poland, which led to the Legia co-owner's letter. Mioduski wrote: "Meet in Warsaw or in Glasgow and let's settle this matter honourably ... Imagine Jock Stein and Billy McNeill were deprived of the greatest triumph of their athletic career by completing an application form wrong."

Legia Warsaw won 6-1 over two legs - and missed two penalties - but fielded an ineligible player, Bartosz Bereszynski, as a late substitute in the second leg at Murrayfield. Celtic, though, were unmoved by Mioduski's appeal. "We are disappointed by Legia Warsaw's comments," read a statement on the Celtic website. "This is entirely a matter for UEFA and its processes. Accordingly, we will reserve further comment for the appropriate time."

Mioduski had appealed to Celtic's history, invoking the club's players and tradition. "Celtic is a legend in European football - the club with an incredible tradition, which since 1888 co-creates the story of the most beautiful game in the world," he wrote. "At the basis of this legend are not only amazing sporting achievements, but also the determination and commitment to values ​​such as honesty and honour. Do not destroy the beautiful clubhouse heritage that you have left in the care of previous generations, 'The Bhoys'. I challenge you, in the spirit of the game and fair play."

Meanwhile, Boniek, the former Juventus and Roma attacker - one of the greatest Polish players of all time and now in charge of his nation's governing body - attacked Celtic, accusing them of ignoring all communication from Poland, while insisting Legia could have been reinstated into Europe's premier competition had the Scottish champions acquiesced.

"We first learned about the case after the game, and since then we've been working on it non-stop," he said.

"I've spoken to the most important people in UEFA - Michel Platini and Giorgio Marchetti [director of competitions] - but they all said the same thing. 'We're sorry, but the regulations do not provide for anything other than a walkover.' And remember, these are rules set down by their independent disciplinary committee.

"So at 8am the next morning, I called Legia president BogusBaw Le[nodorski and told him he needed to intensively push Celtic because that could make a difference. Unfortunately, the way Celtic have acted in this whole affair ... well, let's just say they are anti-sportsmanship.

"Before the match with Legia, they were courteous, gentlemanly in their manners and offered Legia plenty of nice cooperation.

"Then, after the case, Celtic did not respond to phone calls or emails - they simply hid behind a bush and waited for it to go away. They were completely elusive.

"Such behaviour is not befitting a great club. Whatever your decision, at least have the courage to pick up the phone."

Boniek admitted that his club made a mistake in not registering Bereszynski, but chose not to blame UEFA. He pointed out: "There was much talk about the Debrecen case of four years ago when the legislation allowed for other penalties rather than forfeit, but the rules have been changed since then and the only punishment is a walkover.

"It's an inhuman law because it takes the guillotine to the club administrator who has made the error. I keep hearing that UEFA wanted to throw Legia out and include richer Celtic. That's just nonsense. The pre-written laws simply do not allow for any flexibility."

Boniek is still hopeful that Legia can somehow overturn the decision on appeal.

"There are some loopholes and we have many lawyers studying it for us," he said. "If we can find any errors at all from the disciplinary committee, we might be able to get them to waive their judgment. But we know the chances are not great."

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