|The long-running saga started with the illegal signing of Egyptian goalie Essam El-Hadary [GALLO/GETTY]|
The Swiss Football Association moved to avoid suspension from world football on Friday by handing FC Sion a 36-point penalty in a long-running dispute over the club’s fielding of ineligible players.
The Swiss FA said its decision to penalise Sion three points for every league game in which ineligible players played was a response to FIFA’s threat to suspend all Swiss teams, including FC Basel and the national side, from taking part in international matches.
Basel are due to meet Bayern Munich in the Champions League round of 16 on February 22, a rare foray into the upper echelons of international football for a club from Switzerland.
FIFA had given the Swiss Football Association until January 13, 2012, to discipline Sion or face suspension over the saga that began in 2009, when world football’s governing body imposed a one-year transfer ban on the club for illegally signing goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary.
Sion, who ignored the transfer embargo and signed six players in the offseason, have doggedly contested FIFA’s ruling in the courts despite facing increasingly harsh penalties from football authorities.
The club, which didn’t immediately comment on the Swiss FA decision, had filed a criminal complaint on Thursday against members of FIFA’s executive committee accusing them of blackmail and a breach of basic legal rules by threatening to suspend Switzerland.
“The Swiss Football Association has today demanded from FIFA confirmation that the suspension will not now come into effect,” the league said in a statement.
“FIFA’s answer is still being awaited.”
FIFA said in a statement that it took note of the Swiss league’s action and would consider it at an Emergency Committee meeting in early January.
The penalty for Sion falls short of FIFA’s demand to also forfeit most of the club’s results this season, as this would automatically have resulted in opposing sides gaining the points deducted from Sion, the league said.
The Swiss Football Association said Sion now stand last in the league table, with minus five points, but can continue to play in the country’s cup competition.
The points deduction may be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.