Liverpool’s fight to be allowed to defend their title of Champions of Europe was given some extra impetus by a force that could be greater than UEFA.
The G14 association is a group made up of 18 of the most powerful clubs in Europe. When the Champions League was expanded in 1998, it was after the threat of a breakaway by these clubs to form their own European Super League. Liverpool are one of the founder members, and today it emerged that the organisation are backing the Reds in their quest for the chance to play in the competition next season. G14 are like a powerful trade union for the clubs and their words will certainly worry UEFA.
A spokesman for the G14 body told PA that the matter will be discussed at the next meeting: "We support the desire to see Liverpool defend their trophy and the matter will be raised at our management board meeting next month. We believe UEFA should look at ways of allowing this to happen.”
Liverpool are joined in G14 by Manchester United and Arsenal from England, with the likes of Real Madrid, AC Milan and Bayern Munich also included in the 18-strong association. The G14 meeting takes place in Amsterdam on June 9.
In many ways Liverpool are victims of their own success. Liverpool won the UEFA Cup in 2001 and this increased the points given to England for Champions League places. Liverpool were allowed four teams in the competition at the expense of Germany, who dropped down to three. Spain and Italy are currently the only two other countries that get the "reward" of four places in the tournament. Liverpool qualified from fourth place at the end of last season, but if there were only three places available this season they’d be in the competition next season. 49 other countries get less than four places – and it is only those with four teams that are left with this predicament if it arises.
The FA’s chairman Geoff Thompson is also a UEFA vice-president, and is using this inconsistency as an argument to lobby for the Reds. He said: “We are working extremely hard to try to secure the extra place for Liverpool. Our basic concern is to ensure that all 52 countries have the same opportunity. There is an additional place guaranteed should the champions come from 49 countries in Europe but not for the other three – England, Italy and Spain. We are saying that there should be a level playing field and that every country should have the same opportunity.”
Of course the whole process is now highly political, but UEFA are not politicians in the normal sense. They will stick to their guns if that’s what they feel like doing, but wouldn’t want to face a court challenge – another option that may well be investigated.
Manchester United’s new owner Malcolm Glazer is believed to be preparing to approach G14 about raising the possibility of the breakaway competition again. If Liverpool are refused entry into the competition next year it would certainly increase the chances of them backing Glazer in this quest. Glazer is said to be looking at ways to make more money out of Manchester United, and after being told he can’t challenge the TV deal negotiated jointly by the Premier League on the clubs behalf is now looking at other options.
United finished the season without a trophy, and Glazer will face huge opposition to his plans to charge fans much more money next season to watch a team that won nothing this season.