As Liverpool’s amazing success in Europe starts to sink in for players and fans, the battle to get them into the competition again next year is starting to gather pace.
UEFA are due to meet in Manchester on June 17, and it seems that there will be no decision about the issue until then.
UEFA and the FA meanwhile continue to say it’s up to the other to decide who should make the decision. UEFA say the rules can’t be changed and the FA need to nominate Liverpool in place of Everton. The FA say that’s unfair and that UEFA should make a retrospective change to the qualifying procedures.
The FA’s chief executive, Brian Barwick, is a Liverpool fan. He says: "It’s an exceptional situation, that follows an exceptional match and which we believe requires an exceptional solution. What UEFA have, and I sympathise with them to a degree, is a situation where they are faced with not having their own champions in their own competition which is called the Champions League. I think in its own way that tells its own story."
Barwick wasn’t part of the committee that voted for Everton to be kept in the competition, but he defended the position of the FA: ""Liverpool finished outside the top four. I think the FA were right and proper to put the top four in to the Champions League. That’s how teams kicked off in August, expecting a top-four finish to give them qualification or pre-qualification and that will not be changed."
If Liverpool had finished outside of the league qualifying positions in many other European countries – for example Germany – and had won the trophy, this argument wouldn’t be needed. The extra place would be allocated without question.
The problem is that UEFA say that the maximum number that can qualify from one country is four.
Someone aiming to be the next UEFA president is the legendary German player Franz Beckenbauer. He’s standing for election for the role, and is understood to agree about letting Liverpool into next year’s competition.
UEFA have insisted England can have a maximum of four teams in Europe’s elite club competition but several leading figures in European football have been persuaded Liverpool should be allowed to defend their trophy without taking the place of another English side.
It is understood Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer is among those who have been convinced Liverpool should defend their crown. Beckenbauer is not on the executive committee but he is standing for election to be the next UEFA president. Current UEFA president Lennart Johansson is also supposed to be sympathetic to Liverpool, and is said to have told Liverpool chairman
David Moores he is going to try and help. Johansson is a powerful member of the UEFA set-up, and quotes today from "a senior UEFA figure" say that this could certainly help Liverpool: "If the president decides he wants
Liverpool to be the fifth English side in Europe then he can try to
persuade the executive committee to change the rules. It is in their
power and he has definitely left the door open for discussion."
The UEFA mouthpiece in recent days and weeks has been their communications director William Gaillard. He is basically repeating the rules, and perhaps glossing over some of the facts. In his opinion Liverpool should be allowed into the next competition – but only by the English FA relegating Everton to the UEFA Cup. This is what happened in 2000-01 when the Spanish FA allowed the powerful Real Madrid into the tournament by moving Real Zaragoza’s into the UEFA cup. Gaillard said: "The rules are what they are. They were used already once when Real Madrid won and were not among the qualifiers in the Spanish league."
Gaillard comes across as an extremely stubborn individual – he admits that the matter can be discussed at the meeting in Manchester, but makes out he doesn’t want the rules to be changed: "There could be a discussion with the executive committee but we don’t normally change rules in the middle of the competition."
The fact that Gaillard is only a spokesman, and has no power in the decision making process will bring hope to Liverpool. After Wednesday night Liverpool fans won’t give up until the lady with a weight problem breaks into song.