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    UEFA excludes Porto from Champions League

    Lisbon: European football's governing body UEFA excluded Porto from next season's Champions League on Wednesday, saying the Portuguese club had tried to influence the outcome of matches by allegedly bribing referees in the 2003-04 season.

    UEFA said in a statement on its website that the alleged bribery case meant Porto broke its rules that ban "any activity aimed at arranging or influencing the outcome of a match at national or international level."

    Its decision came after disciplinary action was taken last month against Porto by Portuguese football authorities over the case.

    "The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body has decided FC Porto will not be admitted to the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League after studying a matter involving alleged bribery of referees in Portuguese domestic matches in 2003/04," UEFA said.

    Porto said in a statement they would appeal against the decision.

    The club gave no further details and its officials were not immediately available to comment.

    The decision comes after a lengthy investigation known as "Apito Dourado," or Golden Whistle, into alleged bribery by Porto of referees in matches in the 2003/4 season.

    The probe has been headline news in Portugal for several years.

    Last month 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.

    Porto's management decided not to appeal against that decision on the grounds that the club had a substantial lead and the six-point punishment did not affect final standings.

    Porto won last season's Portuguese title for the third time in a row, 14 points ahead of Sporting.

    Their president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa has been suspended for two years by the Disciplinary Commission and fined 10,000 Euros in the case.

    Jose Mourinho, who joined Inter Milan on Tuesday, was the Porto coach in the 2003-4 season when his side won the Champions League and Portuguese title.

    His name has not been mentioned during the investigation. Boavista, who won the Portuguese championship in 2001, were also targetted in the investigation and were relegated last month to the second division and fined 180,000 euros for the offences.