Serbia, Albania lose appeals over drone incidents
NYON, Switzerland (AP) — UEFA has rejected appeals by Serbia and Albania after their European Championship qualifying match was abandoned when a drone flying a political banner flew into the stadium.
UEFA’s appeals body on Tuesday upheld the original disciplinary sanctions: Albania forfeited the match for refusing to play on, and Serbia was deducted the three points from a 3-0 win by default.
Sanctions can be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and the Albania football federation pledged to continue its legal fight.
Play in Belgrade on Oct. 14 was stopped when a drone carrying an Albanian nationalist banner hovered above the pitch.
A Serbia player pulled the banner down and Albanian players tried to protect it. In the resulting disorder, Serbian fans attacked Albania players.
Historic tensions between the countries were fueled by Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian-dominated province, declaring independence from Serbia in 2008.
UEFA also ordered Serbia to play two home qualifiers in an empty stadium.
Serbia lost the first of those matches last month, 3-1 against Denmark. Its next home match in Group I is against Armenia on Sept. 4.
In the five-team group, Denmark and Portugal currently hold the two automatic qualifying places for Euro 2016 in France.
Albania is in third place, which guarantees at least advancing to a playoff. The Albanians have four points from three matches, three ahead of fourth-place Serbia.
The Balkan countries are scheduled for a return match in Albania next Oct. 8.
UEFA also fined both federations 100,000 Swiss Francs ($105,000).
The Albanian federation (FSHF) deplored a UEFA verdict it said did not take account of its players facing violent and racist threats.
“FSHF will continue its legal battle ... because football will win only in this way. A clean match, without violence and racism,” it said in a statement.