(Recasts with UEFA statement)
LISBON, June 13 (Reuters) - UEFA will reassess Porto’s position in next season’s Champions League after annulling the decision to exclude the club over alleged bribery of referees in the 2003-04 season, Europe’s governing body said on Friday.
UEFA said in a statement that in light of new evidence submitted in relation to domestic Portuguese appeals procedures, its Appeals Body referred the June 4 decision back to the Control and Disciplinary Body.
“Having listened to representatives of Porto, the Portuguese Football Federation, SL Benfica and Vitoria SC, as well as UEFA, the Appeals Body decided to annul the challenged decision,” UEFA said on its Web site (www.uefa.com)
“The Control and Disciplinary Body will meet next week to take a decision on Porto’s admission to the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League.”
Porto said that the omission from the original process of Vitoria Guimaraes and Benfica — the third and fourth placed teams who would benefit from their exclusion — was the reason the case had been returned.
“The jury understood that Vitoria Guimaraes and Benfica should have been invited to comment from the beginning of the process in their quality as interested parties,” the club said in a statement.
UEFA’s initial decision to exclude Porto came after disciplinary action was taken last month against the club by Portuguese soccer authorities.
There has been a lengthy investigation into the so-called “Apito Dourado,” or Golden Whistle case in Portugal and it has been headline news for several years.
At the time UEFA said that Porto broke its rules by trying to influence the outcome of matches through the alleged bribery.
The Disciplinary Commission of the Professional Portuguese Football League stripped Porto of six points and fined the club 150,000 euros ($234,000) after its probe of two matches that took place in 2003-04.
Reporting by Carlos Pontes and Axel Bugge; editing by Padraic Halpin