German second division club TuS Koblenz were Thursday docked eight points for infringing the Bundesliga's licensing regulations, the German Football League (DFL) said.
The punishment - the highest points deduction in the history of the Bundesliga - immediately puts the club in relegation danger, the dpa reported.
The DFL ruled the points will be deducted at the end of the season. In addition Koblenz have been fined 200,000 euros (312,000 dollars).
The sanctions relate to contracts with two Serbian players which were renegotiated but not produced to the DFL under its licensing regulations.
DFL chief financial officer Christian Mueller said part of the DFL's job was to ensure fair competition.
"That's why, on behalf of the community of the 36 professional clubs, it's unacceptable if this system - rated as exemplary throughout Europe - is reduced to absurdity through deception," he said.
If docked now, the points deduction would drop Koblenz from eighth to 14th, just three points from the four-team relegation zone.
Koblenz coach Uwe Rapolder, whose team visits bottom club Paderborn on Friday, said: "It is psychologically an extremely difficult situation because we were practically assured of staying up."