Football: Bates proposes `second division' in Europe

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The Independent Online
KEN BATES, the outspoken Chelsea chairman, put himself on a collision course with Uefa yesterday with the suggestion that European competitions should have a "second division" for teams from small countries.

In remarks likely to anger Uefa, the governing body of European football, Bates said that playing small teams in the early rounds of European competitions was "a waste time and money" for big clubs. He said Chelsea and other leading teams lost out in the preliminary rounds because attendances are low due to the opposition's poor quality. Bates urged Uefa to introduce a qualifying round in the new European trophy which will replace the Cup- Winners' Cup and the Uefa Cup from next year. "At present, every group of bus conductors that declares their independence and gets a flag can compete," he said.

He added that teams from countries such as the Faroe Islands, San Marino and Luxembourg should be confined to a "second division".

Meanwhile, Alex Ferguson is prepared to wait until the last minute before deciding if Peter Schmeichel is fit enough to face Brondby as Manchester United fly out to Copenhagen today. Goalkeeper Schmeichel is desperate to play against the club he left to join United in 1991, but was still under treatment yesterday for the stomach strain which has kept him out of action since 30 September.

Dutchman Raimond van der Gouw is on standby after playing in the last two Premiership games, but whatever happens, Ferguson will be forced to make changes.

David Beckham and Nicky Butt are suspended, Denis Irwin and Ronny Johnsen are injured, and the United boss has already decided that Paul Scholes will come into the side which beat Wimbledon 5-1.