Bizarre scenes as Racing Santander refuse to play Copa del Rey quarter-final due to unpaid wages - and then find themselves banned

They lined up on the pitch against Real Sociedad, but then refused to contest the ball

Racing Santander have been banned from competing in next season's Copa del Rey following their boycott of Thursday night's quarter-final clash against Real Sociedad in protest over unpaid wages.

Racing's players warned earlier this week they would refuse to play the last-eight second leg at El Sardinero unless club president Angel Lavin and his board resigned, with captain Mario Fernandez saying in a statement the team had not been paid in several months.

And with no response from the board to that ultimatum, the third-tier side followed through with their threat on Thursday as their clash with Sociedad was suspended by the referee soon after the visitors had kicked off, with Racing refusing to compete.

The Spanish football federation (RFEF) on Friday officially confirmed Sociedad as winners of the tie, with the Basque side who led 3-1 from the first leg now facing Barcelona in the semi-finals, and that Racing will be suspended from taking part in the next Copa del Rey.

The Cantabrian club were also handed a fine of around 3,000 euros (£2,500).

In listing the decisions made by the RFEF's competitions committee on Friday, a statement read that the tie had been "given for lost to the non-appearing club, who will not be able to participate in the next edition of the Copa del Rey".

The Racing players turned up for their match against Sociedad and completed their warm-up at El Sardinero but, when the first whistle blew, it soon became evident there would not be a contest.

Once Sociedad kicked off, the Racing players moved in and stood arm in arm around the centre circle, with substitutes and coaching staff lining up in solidarity on the touchline.

Sociedad passed the ball between themselves in their own half for a while before kicking it out for a throw-in, at which point the referee led the players off the pitch.

Racing's fans cheered and applauded the team from the stands, and coach Paco Fernandez expressed his gratitude for the support shown to his players.

"I want to say thank you for the show of support we've had," Fernandez said at his post-match press conference. "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.

"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."

As recently as 2008, Racing finished sixth in the Primera Division standings but in the last two seasons they have suffered back-to-back relegations to drop to the third tier.

PA

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