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Soccer

UEFA bans La Liga side Malaga from European games

European football's governing body UEFA has banned Malaga for a year from continental competition for financial irregularities. The Spanish club said they have been made "scapegoats," and will appeal the decision.

FC Malaga players Recio, left, Isco, third from left, Ignacio Camacho, center, Roque Santa Cruz, second from right, and Diego Buonanotte, right, during training before the UEFA Champions League 2012/13 group stage match against FC Zenit (St. Petersburg, Russia). Alexei Danichev/RIA Novosti

Football FC Malaga training

UEFA announced the punishment Friday, saying Malaga would be barred from competing in either the Champions League or Europa League when they next qualify. The club also faces a possible second year-long ban if they do not clear their outstanding debts. The ban does not apply to this season.

Malaga, who on Thursday were drawn against Portuguese side Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League, were also handed a 300,000 euro ($395,000) fine.

The club has until March 31 of next year to prove "it has no overdue payables towards football clubs or towards employees and/or tax authorities," said UEFA in a statement.

UEFA, which announced rulings on nine clubs in total, had said last month that Malaga had not met a September deadline to prove it had paid its outstanding bills. The case was referred to UEFA's adjudicatory chamber, which delivered its ruling Friday.

Also facing bans should they qualify for Europe in the next three seasons are Hajduk Split and NK Osijek of Croatia, Partizan Belgrade of Serbia and Romanian clubs Dinamo Bucharest and Rapid Bucharest.

Serbian club FK Vojvodina and Arsenal Kyiv of Ukraine were given fines, while a case against Poland's Lech Poznan was dropped.

The punishments are part of UEFA's Financial Fair Play program, which requires clubs to balance their books or face sanctions.

'Scapegoats'

The club reacted strongly to UEFA's actions, saying they would appeal the punishment.

"Malaga football club wishes to express its total disagreement with the resolution made today by UEFA, considering the measures it intends to take absolutely disproportionate and unjustified," said the club in a statement.

"An unfair punishment is being applied to make an example of the club, turning it into scapegoats," it added, saying the club "will work energetically and tirelessly until justice is done, appealing firmly to all the necessary bodies."

Malaga have the right to appeal the decision in Switzerland's Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The club was purchased by Qatari magnate Abdullah Al Thani in 2010, who vowed to make it a major power in European football.

Star names like Santi Cazorla, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Jeremy Toulalan, Javier Saviola and Joaqin were brought in, helping the team to a fourth-place finish in La Liga last season.

But funds quickly diminished, and questions began to arise over unpaid wages. Some players, like Cazorla, were sold in an attempt to balance the books.

dr/pfd  (dpa, AFP, Reuters)