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Racing Santander banned from Copa del Rey after on-pitch boycott

updated 6:54 PM EST, Fri January 31, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Racing Santander players stage boycott of Copa del Rey quarterfinal
  • Angry about unpaid wages at cash-strapped club
  • Real Sociedad led 3-1 after first leg on their home ground
  • NEW: Spanish federation ban Racing from next season's competition

(CNN) -- Crisis club Racing Santander has been thrown out of next season's Copa del Rey after its players staged a bizarre on-pitch boycott of a quarterfinal tie against Real Sociedad.

The protest Thursday saw Racing players link arms on the center circle and refuse to play the second leg.

They needed to pull back a two-goal deficit to earn a last four clash with Catalan giants Barcelona, but months of frustration over unpaid wages boiled over.

The match was quickly abandoned but the Spanish football federation (RFEF) reacted Friday by imposing the penalty and a fine of €3,000 ($4050) on the stricken Cantabrian club.

A statement on the federation's official website said its competitions committee had awarded the tie to Basque side Real Sociedad, who had led 3-1 from their home leg.

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"The non-appearing club will not be able to participate in the next edition of the Copa del Rey," it read.

The Racing players, who were applauded by their home fans in the El Sardinero, had warned before the match that they would take action unless club president Angel Lavin and his board resigned.

Substitutes and staff -- including coach Paco Fernandez -- who has reportedly not been paid for sixth months -- performed the same gesture of defiance on the touchline before the referee Gil Manzano called a halt to the proceedings after less than a minute.

Fernandez told a post-match press conference that he was proud of his players for the stance they had taken and the support they had received.

"We feel touched. We regret having to make this decision but we have done it out of respect to football, the sport that we love, and to ourselves," he said.

"I want to thank my players for their bravery. Today was the biggest game of our lives and we have done it for our dignity. Without the fans' support, today's decision would have been very difficult to take."

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Racing had reached the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey after upset victories over La Liga top-flight sides Sevilla and Almeria, despite languishing in Spain's third division.

The majority of the club's 101-year history has been spent in the top division of La Liga themselves with a sixth-placed finish as recently as 2008.

But plagued by debt, Racing suffered two straight relegations as well as entering administration.

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