Bumpy carpet ride looms in Brazil
The Brazilian championship is in danger of ending up on the so-called "big carpet" as clubs wrangle over the sporting tribunal's decision to provisionally void the result of a match played at the weekend.
The STJD (Superior Court of Sports Justice) has agreed to investigate a protest from Palmeiras, who claimed that officials broke rules by using television replays in deciding to disallow a goal in their 2-1 defeat to Internacional.
The tribunal has annulled the result, as well as provisionally docking Inter's three points, until a hearing into the incident has taken places, possibly next week.
Palmeiras are struggling near the foot of the table and the decision has worried their nearest rivals Bahia and Sport Recife.
The former South American champions are 18th in the 20-team table with 32 points, one behind Sport Recife and five adrift of Bahia who are sixteenth. The bottom four teams are relegated.
"I think it is absurd. It's a case of taking action after the incident has happened. This decision could set a precedent," Sport Recife president Gustavo Debeux told Brazilian media.
"I am going to talk to our legal department. Sport Recife are also going to stand up for our rights."
Bahia's legal director Paulo Reis said his club would ask to take part in the hearing.
"We are going to enter the case as an affected third party," he told the Universo Online website.
"The club has direct involvement in the result of the match, and could lose out with the final decision."
The Brazilian sporting code allows third parties to become involved in disciplinary cases if they are affected.
Brazilian media fear the case could lead to further ramifications with the championship decided in the boardroom rather than on the pitch, a situation known as "the big carpet (Tapetao)."
The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) was unable to hold a championship in 2000 due to a complex legal dispute over which teams should have been relegated the season before.
The dispute arose when a Sao Paulo player was declared ineligible and wins were awarded to the team's opponents in the several matches in which he played.
This distorted the table, leading to succession of court injunctions and protests.
The present dispute began on Saturday when Palmeiras striker Hernan Barcos punched the ball into the net and the incident was missed by the referee and his assistant.
Internacional players circled the referee in protest. The fourth official called to the linesman, apparently to tell him Barcos had scored with his hand, and the goal was disallowed.
Palmeiras then protested that the goal should have stood because the match officials had only found out about the handball after seeing television replays of the incident.