The canton Ticino basketball club, Vacallo, has been expelled from the Swiss league, just days before the start of the 2000/1 season, after failing to make up a SFr800,000 shortfall.
The exclusion means basketball's top division title will be disputed by just nine teams when the season begins on Saturday.
Vacallo were already in severe financial trouble last season. But on the court they were luckier, winning the Swiss cup in 1999 and 2000, thanks to stars like Lee Matthews and Pete Lisicky.
However, they failed in their quest to take the league title in both years. Club president, Nicoletta Mettel, who arrived to great fanfare in 1997, announced her resignation in November 1999.
Under pressure from Vacallo's sponsors, Mettel decided to stay on. But things got no better for the club, and by the end of the 1999/2000 season the players were complaining they hadn't been paid.
Mettel's husband, Kamel Ghribi, the head of Vacallo's sponsor, petroleum company Winington, took over as club president in the summer. In a bid to save money, he sold off the previous season's players, and recruited only seven new players for the new season.
However, he failed to attract new money to the club, and Vacallo declared bankruptcy on September 21. It was unable to find a solution by noon on October 5 - the deadline set by the Swiss league - and so was expelled.
swissinfo with agencies
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