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Fenerbahce appeals Champions League shut-out

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish champions Fenerbahce said Thursday they will appeal their exclusion from this season's Champions League over a match-fixing investigation involving the top Istanbul club which has plunged the Turkish league into turmoil.

They will be replaced by Trabzonspor, the league runners-up last season on goal difference.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) decision, taken under pressure from UEFA, has added to revenue concerns among clubs since the match-fixing court case emerged, although no decision has been taken to relegate any clubs.

Fenerbahce said its loss of revenues due to the Champions League exclusion will be some 25 million euros ($36 million) and its shares tumbled nine percent on the Istanbul Stock Exchange.

Trabzon shares surged 10 percent.

"Our club will apply to the TFF Arbitration Board to suspend and annul the decision to bar it from the UEFA Champions League," Fenerbahce said in a statement to the Istanbul Stock Exchange.

More than 30 players and officials have been jailed pending trial, including the Fenerbahce chairman Aziz Yildirim and the coach and deputy chairman of Besiktas, in connection with alleged manipulation in 19 matches.

Fenerbahce said in a statement that UEFA's stance on the issue was unlawful and that it could take legal action against both it and the Turkish federation, underlining the principle of "innocent until proven guilty."

"With this decision, the TFF has bowed to the unlawful approach of UEFA," Fenerbahce said on its website. http://www.fenerbahce.org/eng/

UEFA had written to the federation Tuesday saying Fenerbahce must withdraw from the Champions League or the TFF should take the decision to bar them or face a disciplinary investigation, the federation said.

"The (UEFA emergency) 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 on Wednesday evening.

"SCAPEGOAT"

Fenerbahce asked why UEFA had not itself taken the decision to bar it and whether it wanted the federation to take legal and financial responsibility if the court decides Fenerbahce has no case to answer and the club seeks compensation.

"Has Fenerbahce, and in a sense Turkish football, been made a scapegoat to cover up UEFA's failure in the fight against match-fixing and gambling?" the club said.

Fenerbahce said separately it had decided not to renew its women's volleyball team sponsorship contract with the Acibadem Health Group. TFF Chairman Mehmet Ali Aydinlar is chairman of the Acibadem group.

The federation said last week it would not take decisions regarding those clubs linked to the probe until the court has accepted the indictment and lifted a secrecy rule.

In the meantime last season's results stand, with Fenerbahce confirmed as champions.

A UEFA official visited Turkey this week and met with the federation and prosecutor in the match-fixing case to collect information on the investigation.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Alastair Himmer)