Ex-Sporting president acquitted for alleged role in 2018 fan attack

Former Sporting Lisbon president Bruno de Carvalho was acquitted on Thursday by a court in Lisbon of any "moral responsibility" regarding the attack that a group of fans perpetrated at the club's training camp two years ago.

Nine of the defendants were sentenced to five years in prison while 29 were handed suspended prison sentences for crimes of aggravated threat and offense to physical integrity.

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On May 15, 2018, a group of around 40 people forced their way into Sporting's training centre in Alcochete and assaulted players, staff and personnel.

Two months after the attack, Sporting members overwhelmingly voted to remove then club president De Carvalho, whom players had blamed for stoking anger among fans with his public criticism of the team's performances that season.

"I can start to get out of the confinement I've been in for two years," De Carvalho told reporters outside the court after Thursday's ruling. "This is the assumption of something I knew two years ago. I was always innocent, they [Sporting fans] should have trusted me, I gave everything for Sporting, I put the club ahead of my life.

"Fortunately, my family did not abandon me."

As a result of the attack, nine Sporting Lisbon players, including Portugal international Bruno Fernandes, cancelled their contracts with the team, citing just cause because of the attack.

Fernandes re-signed for Sporting a few months later while most of the other players signed with new teams. Fernandes joined Manchester United in January.

Sporting released a statement on Thursday hoping their "darkest day" will never be repeated.

It read: "At a time when the invasion of the Sporting Academy in Alcochete is coming to an end, Sporting Clube de Portugal calls on society and the Portuguese State not to repeat moments like this, which in no way dignify Sport in general and Football in particular.

"These events indelibly marked Sporting CP and Sportinguistas, bringing very damaging consequences for everyone, which shocked the world. Sport is and must be an increasingly healthy space and not one of gratuitous violence and crime. Two years after the darkest day in the history of Sporting Clube de Portugal, the Club will continue to fight for its values ​​and continue to echo, with the competent entities, about the importance of eradicating this type of behaviour. It is important that the whole world of Sports come together so that these events do not happen again.

"Sporting always, Alcochete never again!"