CELTIC remain in the Champions League after Legia Warsaw had their appeal for fielding an ineligible player turned down by UEFA.
Legia hoped that UEFA would show leniency and put “football first” prior to their hearing with representatives of the governing body, which took place Wednesday.
However, it has officially been confirmed that UEFA have turned down the appeal.
The Polish side won the two-legged tie 6-1 on aggregate, but saw their 2-0 victory in the second leg turned into a 0-3 defeat after introducing the suspended Bartosz Bereszynski with four minutes remaining.
The defender, and his club, thought his three-game suspension had been already been served, only for it to later emerge that club administrators had not properly registered him for the previous round’s tie with St Patricks.
The punishment pushed Celtic through on away goals and eliminated Legia, dropping them into the Europa League.
Celtic will now face NK Maribor in the play-off round to decide who enters the Champions League group stages.
In response to the announcement, Celtic released a short statement on the subject.
It read: “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.”
Legia Warsaw’s co-owner Dariusz Mioduski threatened to take the club’s case higher if the punishment was not overturned by UEFA.
He’s now released a statement through the club’s official website which confirms Legia’s desire to take the fight to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The statement read: “Till 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.
“We will use the full appeal procedure, in order to get back our result that was fairly gained on the pitch.
“We will certainly fully subordinate to the final verdict. But I still hope that football will win, as well as the values it is based on: fair-play and respect to the on-the-pitch result.”
Mioduski added: “We hope that CAS will judge our case as soon as possible.
“We don’t give up and keep fighting. Our lawyers are now working hard on the case, while the team prepares for the forthcoming matches. We aim high as always.”
Before the verdict, Hoops manager Ronny Deila spoke only about facing Maribor in the play-off.
He said: “We have prepared for Maribor. They are a good team and they have been the champions of Slovenia in the last three years.
“There is nothing easy in the Champions League so it is going to be a hard game but we know what we are able to do when we are at our best.
“It is hard to say if they are better or worse (than Legia Warsaw) but they are a good team.
“Legia was a good team as well, so nothing is easy but we can do much better than we did against Legia and we will play at Celtic Park and those two things can be good for us.
“I have seen European nights at Celtic Park and I understand why you get results there and that’s because you have unbelievable fans behind you.”
The verdict was confirmed in a UEFA statement which read: “The UEFA Appeals Body met yesterday following an appeal by Legia Warszawa against the decision taken by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body on 8 August.
“The appeal lodged by the Polish club was rejected and, therefore, the original decision of the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body is confirmed.
“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.”
Legia president Boguslaw Lesnodorski echoed Mioduski’s pledge to take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
He wrote on Twitter: “Negative decision, it’s hard even to comment, we are using the CAS (we plan to tomorrow) and otherwise we are focused only on the games.”
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, but their failure to register him for the St Pat’s tie proved costly.
Legia will take on Aktobe of Kazakhstan in the Europa League play-off.