West Ham United avoided being thrown out of the FA Cup last night (Wednesday) after a day of farce in which they escaped with a fine for illegally -fielding Diafra Sakho.
Fifa provoked outrage by docking the Premier League club just pounds 71,000 for playing Sakho in their fourth-round victory at Bristol City after they declared him injured for Senegal's Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
The world governing body could have expelled West Ham from the competition but decided the offence did not warrant the ultimate sanction, despite Sakho having scored the only goal at Ashton Gate.
Fifa could also have banned Sakho over the incident but chose instead to issue a reprimand.
The FA was powerless to intervene as neither the club nor player broke rules on eligibility, a breach of which would almost certainly have resulted in the tie being replayed.
West Ham had "vigorously" denied any wrongdoing in fielding Sakho against their League One opponents.
"The club and the player have received the decision and will now be focusing their concentration on the game against Manchester United on Sunday," they said in a statement.
Bristol City were far from impressed with a fine which was less than the pounds 90,000 West Ham netted for winning last month's tie, which in turn pales into comparison with the pounds 250,000 windfall for a televised fifth-round clash at West Bromwich Albion.
City have no right of appeal to Fifa but could pursue their opponents for financial compensation.
"The club is disappointed with the penalty handed down by the Fifa disciplinary committee and is considering its options," they said in a statement. West Ham were found by Fifa to have breached rules relating to a player who has been called up by his country.
Having been declared unfit to join the Senegal squad, Sakho was not allowed to play for West Ham while his country remained in the tournament in Equatorial Guinea.
The Bristol City tie took place two days before Senegal were eliminated from the competition last Tuesday, prompting a complaint from the country's FA.
Yesterday's reaction to Fifa's decision not to expel West Ham from the FA Cup was a mixture of anger and confusion.
It had been anticipated that, if found guilty, it would be because the governing body's disciplinary committee had deemed them to have refused or neglected to release Sakho for international duty.
No such offence was found to have been committed, although Fifa failed to make that clear when issuing its judgment.
It said in a statement: "The Senegalese FA was informed by West Ham United that Sakho was prevented from playing and travelling by plane due to injury and thus he did not join the Senegal team.
"On Jan 25, the player took part in an official match for his club West Ham United. Senegal were eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations on Jan 27.
"The Fifa disciplinary committee has found the club and the player to have violated article 5 of Annexe 1 of the regulations in relation to the match played by Sakho on Jan25.
"The club has been fined 100,000 Swiss francs [pounds 71,000] and issued with a reprimand, while the player has been sanctioned with a reprimand."
Yesterday was not the first time West Ham have been involved in an eligibility row. In 2009, they agreed to pay Sheffield United pounds 18.1?million in compensation over Carlos Tevez's role in their escape from Premier League relegation at United's expense.