SAO PAULO (AP) — A civil court judge reinstated Portuguesa to the first division of the Brazilian league on Wednesday, putting popular club Flamengo in danger of relegation just a few weeks before the championship is due to kick off.
Judge Miguel Ferrari Jr. ruled Wednesday that a sports tribunal was wrong to strip four points from Portuguesa for using players who were under suspension in the last round of the 2013 season, and said Brazil's football federation would be fined if it didn't abide by the decision. The federation can appeal.
Flamengo also was stripped of four competition points for the same reason and was just outside relegation zone, so Brazil's most popular club would be the one demoted if the ruling sticks.
Fluminense was in the relegation zone before Portuguesa and Flamengo were stripped of the competition points.
The judge's decision only gives the points back to Portuguesa and doesn't specify that a club must be relegated, so there is a possibility that the Brazilian federation begins the championship with 21 clubs. The 20-team schedule has already been announced.
Flamengo has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reverse last year's sports tribunal's decision, but there is no timetable on a ruling.
Wednesday's ruling in a Sao Paulo civil court, nearly four months after the 2013 competition ended, is not good news for Brazilian football as the World Cup approaches. The legal battles could keep the league from starting April 20 on schedule.
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