BUCHAREST (Reuters) - One of European football's iconic names could disappear from the professional game after Romania's defence ministry won a court case against Steaua Bucharest on Thursday.
The 1986 European Cup winners -- their country's most successful club with 26 league titles -- have been illegally using the name which rightfully belongs to an army side, the court ruled.
The ministry had first resorted to law in 2011, saying the club, founded in 1947 as an army side, had used the Steaua brand illegally since 2004.
Steaua, under flamboyant owner Gici Becali, separated from the state sports club, CSA Steaua Bucharest, in 1998.
The ministry called the court ruling "well-deserved" and said in a statement it would sue Becali’s Steaua for 40 million euros ($41.75 million) for using the brand illegally for more than a decade.
Becali said he intended to appeal to the Supreme Court and said if the ruling was upheld and the club made to pay, Steaua would become bankrupt and consequently face demotion to the amateur fourth division -- where the "legitimate" Steaua will play next season.
However, Becali said he was considering changing the name to FC Sports Becali.
"The fans will follow me," he said. "They will say there was a huge injustice and will follow me."
To add to Steaua's woes, they were thumped 4-1 by bitter city rivals Dinamo in the first leg of the Romanian League Cup’s semi-final on Thursday, hours after losing the bigger battle.
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov,; Editing by Neville Dalton