NYON – Turkish champion Fenerbahce has been replaced by domestic runner-up Trabzonspor in the Champions League group stage after the country's federation withdrew the club because of an ongoing match-fixing investigation.
Turkey's Football Federation said it withdrew Fenerbahce on the eve of the group-stage after holding emergency meetings Wednesday. That caused UEFA to summon its emergency panel, which decided to include Trabzonspor in the draw instead.
''The panel considered that the Turkish Football Federation took the right decision to protect the game, fully in line with our zero-tolerance policy against match-fixing,'' UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said. ''The Turkish Football Federation has shown with this decision that it takes its full responsibility in the fight against corruption.''
Trabzonspor finished second in the Turkish league last year but had been eliminated by Benfica in Champions League qualifying and entered into a playoff for the Europa League instead. Its opponent in the playoff, Athletic Bilbao, will be given a direct entry into the second-tier competition.
The group draw for the 32 clubs in the Champions League is held Thursday in Monaco.
The decision to ban Fenerbahce came after UEFA sent its legal counsel for integrity, Pierre Cornu, to Turkey for meetings this week with senior football officials.
UEFA's decision to include Trabzonspor in its marquee club competition is not entirely risk-free, however, as that club has also been implicated in the probe. UEFA had warned it would kick out any team, and wipe its results from the record, if any match-fixing allegation was proven.
Turkey could lose its place entirely in the competition.
Turkey's champion club traditionally earns at least €20 million ($29 million) from playing in the competition, based on UEFA bonuses, match results and a share of Turkish broadcasting deals.