UEFA president Lennart Johansson has again gone on record to say he’s on Liverpool’s side over the possibility of including Liverpool in next season’s Champions League.
The executive committee of UEFA meet up in Manchester on 17th June, but Johansson wants a decision to be made in principle before that – and for that decision to be to give Liverpool a wild-card entry.
Speaking to the Sunday times, Johansson said, "The winner should have a chance to defend the title. We must sit down as a matter of real urgency to see if there is a way to make it happen."
Many people feel the Champions League’s reputation will suffer if the holders are absent. UEFA haven’t publically admitted it, but they are also concerned about the feelings of the sponsors and broadcasters on the matter. Johansson said: "If there is a rule that harms the tournament, we have to discuss changing the rule.”
It was the UEFA chief executive, Lars-Christer Olsson, that confirmed talks will begin before the meeting next month: He said: “We will arrange a telephone conference because the urgency of the situation is too important to wait until we could get the full committee together.”
All of this flies in the face of what the stubborn UEFA Director of Communications, William Gaillard has been saying.
Gaillard is basically the chief spokesman for governing body of European football, and to hear his comments on the situation differing so substantially from his superiors makes UEFA seem as badly organise as the English FA. The English FA wrote to UEFA before the final asking that should Liverpool win they be offered a place in the competition next season, Gaillard said, ""We wrote back to them and informed them of the rules, which state that only four clubs from England are permitted to enter the Champions League. They told us that the fourth team to qualify from England was Everton."
What Gaillard is doing constantly is to answer questions on what the rules, in the 2004-05 regulations document aleady are. The bottom line of this is that the regulations say that a maximum of four teams from one country should be in the tournament each season. The FA, under the existing regulations, are able to move Everton down into the UEFA Cup – but don’t want to do this: "This option was left open to the English Football Association. We are sorry for Liverpool, but it is not in our hands. The English FA informed us of the clubs that qualified for the Champions League from England."
Gaillard is a beaurocrat, very capable of explaining the existing regulations, but unable to feel the passion of football. It’s Gaillard’s job to explain the rules, and when he does the quotes are attributed to UEFA. Ultimately though the decision is down to the UEFA executive committee, under the guidance of the UEFA President. Gaillard’s role in the decision making is to tell the world’s media what the decision was once it is made.
Someone who does understand the passion of football is German legend Franz Beckenbauer, who is aiming for election as the next Uefa president. He saw the match on Wednesday through the eyes of a football fan, and feels that beaurocracy needs to be overcome to allow Liverpool the chance to defend the title: "Anyone who was in Istanbul knows they saw one of the greatest matches in European Cup history. The champions must always defend their crown. Any problems must be overcome. There is great support for their case."
Beckenbauer won’t be involved in the decision making process, but may be asked for his opinion before the decision is made. He will support Liverpool he says: "If I am asked I will tell Uefa Liverpool should be part of the competition next season. How can we turn our backs on them and say ‘No, you are not welcome’. It won’t be the same if the champions are missing."
Liverpool proved throughout their Champions League run that passion can be the difference in a successful campaign.