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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Egyptian soccer body to suspend relegations of clubs

Egyptian Football Association will suspend relegation of the three worst performing clubs in the country’s Premier League. (File Photo)
Egyptian Football Association will suspend relegation of the three worst performing clubs in the country’s Premier League. (File Photo)
The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) is set to this season suspend relegation of the three worst performing clubs in the country’s Premier League.

“The Egyptian FA recommends canceling the relegation this season upon the request and approval of the clubs. The clubs had to go through exceptional circumstances and the league was suspended for 80 days,” EFA spokesman Azmi Megahed said on the association’s website.

The suspension is a gesture to clubs who have suffered from the turmoil before and after the ousting this year by mass anti-government demonstrations of President Hosni Mubarak.
The clubs had threatened to complain to world soccer body FIFA if relegations for the current season were not suspended.

It also constitutes an effort to fend off criticism in recent months with fans and clubs accusing referees of corruption and demanding the resignation of the Mubarak era-appointed EFA board.

Egyptian soccer has had a rough year. All professional soccer was suspended for three months to prevent the soccer pitch from becoming an opposition rallying point. The suspension effected the clubs’ performance as well as their wallet. Egypt’s national team failed this year for the first time in 29 years to reach the African Cup of Nations finals.

The planned suspension has sparked fierce debate in the Egyptian media particularly given that it would save popular club Ittihad as-Skanadrya in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria as well as Arab Contractors FC and Smouha FC from relegation.

Ittihad is one of the clubs hardest hit by the turmoil in Egypt. Militant soccer fans forced its chairman to resign because he was a member of Mr. Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) as well as several board members. Players have complained that they were not paid and could not pay their rents.

Next season’s Premier League will have 19 instead of 16 competing clubs once the suspension of the relegations becomes official. As a result, six instead of three clubs will be relegated at the end of the next season.

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