SERGIO Berti, the former Argentinian World Cup player, yesterday won his appeal against the decision by Livingston to terminate his contract after he spat on a team- mate during a game. The SFA appeals committee yesterday ruled that the West Lothian club were wrong to sack the 34-year-old after he spat at Richard Brittain during a pre-season friendly in Morecambe.

The SFA findings, final and binding on all parties, means that the club now must honour the rest of his two-year contract. The former Parma and Inter Milan player was on an estimated (pounds) 4000 a week, which would mean a (pounds) 256,000 pay-off.

The decision will have a catastrophic effect on the club, as they had made it clear that buying in new players during the transfer window rested on the right to terminate Berti's contract, which was a drain on their already stretched resources.

However, in a statement released on their website last night, the SFA said Livingston were wrong to terminate his contract and upheld Berti's appeal.

The player appeared in person at the hearing, where his fate was decided by a four-man appeals committee chaired by Campbell Christie of Falkirk. The meeting at Hampden was also attended by officials of the Premierleague, who had backed Livingston's stance, and Livingston directors, as well as a legal representative and an interpreter for the player.

An SFA spokesman said: ''This decision does not mean in any way that the SFA condones spitting. The hearing was extensive, thorough, and fair, and the members of the appeals committee were unanimous in reaching their decision.''

No-one from Livingston was available last night to comment on the SFA decision.

lThe SFA yesterday banned Lossiemouth teenager John Evans for 18 months, one of the stiffest sentences ever handed out. Evans, 17, who kicked an opponent on the head, knocking him unconscious, is banned until August 1, 2004. The incident happened at the final whistle of a Highland League youth cup tie earlier this season in which Clach player Alan Geegan was injured.

lBrechin City yesterday signed Derek Soutar, Dundee's Scotland Under-21 keeper, on loan until the end of the season. Paul Deas, the former Partick Thistle and Ross County defender, has joined until June.