In a document held on the UEFA site – available here in PDF format – UEFA set out various regulations relating to the Champions League tournament for 2004-05. The wording in section 1.03 outlines what happens with respect to the holders of the trophy being entered into the following season’s tournament.
1.03 At the request of the national association concerned, the UEFA Champions League title-holders may be entered for this competition, as an additional representative of that association, if they have not qualified for the UEFA Champions League via the top domestic league championship. If, in such a case, the title-holders come from an association entitled to enter four teams for the UEFA Champions League, the fourth-placed club in the top domestic league championship has to be entered for the UEFA Cup.
This wording differs slightly from that which has been used by UEFA in recent weeks. Our understanding is this. The holders of the trophy are put into the following season’s competition at the request of their association. In Liverpool’s case (if they won) the English FA would need to put their names forward. It would be wrong of the FA not to put that team forward – they’d need a good reason not to do so. In turn UEFA would then invoke the regulation to put the fourth-placed team into the UEFA Cup.
This happened in 2000 when Real Madrid failed to finish in the top four of La Liga when they won the trophy. They were entered into the Champions League and Real Zaragoza were entered into the UEFA Cup.
In a similar fashion this year’s Carling Cup threw up a similar ruling with no controversy. If Liverpool had won the trophy, they’d have been guaranteed a place in next season’s UEFA cup. They lost of course, and so the rules meant that the UEFA place was then passed on to the team that finished seventh in the Premiership. There is obviously going to be a good chance of one season a team finishing seventh but not getting into Europe because the place went to the winners of the Carling Cup. Or for that matter the FA Cup – because both teams in the final are already qualified for Europe, the FA Cup’s UEFA Cup place is going to the team that finishes in 6th place in the league.
Obviously this is all irrelevent unless Liverpool win the trophy – and to have a chance of doing this they need to play well against Chelsea tonight and next week and get into the final.