We think it’s time the talk over who would get into the Champions League if Liverpool win the tournament but finish below fourth should be brought to an end until it matters. Liverpool could finish fourth anyway, but to win the Champions League outright they’ve still got to beat Chelsea on Tuesday and then win in Istanbul. Once the season’s over though it’s time UEFA reviewed the regulations. Perhaps the way to do this is to always award an extra Champions League place to the country of the winners. Better they review the situation than risk being the subject of legal action.
Lennart Johansson was speaking to Five Live today and showed that UEFA might be able to bend the rules a little for next season. Liverpool could still get in as winners: "If there is a possibility to make an exception for the winner of the Champions League then there could be an additional place. The door is always open. We are there to serve football, not just dictate."
UEFA are the type of organisation that always make contradictory statements – probably due to the size of the organisation more than anything else. UEFA has been announcing through spokesmen that it’s uninterested in the situation as the rules are clear. Whoever wins, it’s always up to their FA to nominate them for the next tournament. If they are nominated and that would increase the teams entered from one country to five, the fourth-placed team in the league is "relegated" to the UEFA Cup instead.
What Johansson has basically admitted is that this situation is unfortunate – and that UEFA are prepared to make an exception to the rules. He said, "Liverpool are welcome with their point of view. They can make any proposal and we will deal with it and we will give them a quick answer. It is for the executive committee to decide and anything can be granted if they decide to go to the member associations and ask for a change in the regulations."
Johansson also admitted: "It would be unfair on Everton who have played the whole season and qualified via fourth place to then exclude them."
Johansson says that this situation won’t arise again – the rules will be worded better by the time the next tournament kicks off: "We will make it more clear than we have before as to what is valid because it will happen again and again. In my opinion the rule is already there, but if there are exceptions to the rule then we have to clarify the situation and make a clear statement about it."
Certainly with Liverpool being members of the powerful G14 group of clubs, it would seem sensible for UEFA to make sure that an allowance is made this time. At the end of the day the rule is clear – it’s the FA’s decision what to do. It’s unfortunate that this is the rule, because it’s a no-win situation for the FA if they are forced to choose.
In all honesty, if it didn’t come down to the money involved, the Champions League wouldn’t feature Chelsea or Liverpool this season – it would only have Arsenal in from England. Neither Chelsea nor Liverpool were Champions going into this tournament. If Liverpool do win then they’d be Champions of Europe.
The trouble is that all of this talk will be for nothing unless Liverpool can do what they’re capable of – and lift that trophy in Istanbul.