Soccer-Petitioners for an Austria-free Euro 2008 get fined

VIENNA Wed May 21, 2008 4:51pm BST

VIENNA May 21 (Reuters) - Petitioners who urged hosts Austria to withdraw from Euro 2008 after some poor performances have been fined for misuse of the national coat of arms, an organiser told Reuters on Wednesday.

Michael Kriess, the son of former Austrian international Werner and a coordinator of the campaign which attracted 10,000 signatures, said a court had fined him 1,500 euros ($2,364) for damage to the country's reputation and standing.

The court in Innsbruck was not immediately available for comment.

The black Austrian eagle with a golden crown appears on the Web site of the online petition (www.rueckgrat.cc) with a football obscuring its head.

Kriess said he would challenge the fine in court in June.

"I am not worried about the Austrian team embarrassing themselves. I'm fully expecting it," he said of the tournament, where Austria are in Group B with Germany, Croatia and Poland.

According to petitioners, fans fell into a dismal state of depression during a nine-match winless run last year and wished to hand their place to the best of the teams who failed to qualify for the tournament.

(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Padraic Halpin)