Football: Blackburn given a glimpse of Europe: FA support sought at Ewood Park

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE match-fixing scandal currently enveloping Marseille, the European Cup holders, has given Blackburn Rovers an unexpected chance of taking part in the Uefa Cup next season.

Blackburn, who narrowly failed to qualify for one of England's two allotted places in the Uefa Cup, were alerted to the possibility of a back-door place in Europe when Heart of Midlothian were called into the competition at the 11th hour.

The Edinburgh club benefited from the expulsion of two Polish clubs from the European Cup and Cup-Winners' Cup because of match-fixing. Lech Poznan and Katowice were promoted from the Uefa Cup, but the governing body chose to elevate only one team, Hearts, from the top of the reserve list.

England, in the form of Blackburn, were next in line. Uefa chose to proceed with an even number of entrants, 64, but the Hearts precedent has given Ewood Park officials hope that Marseille's possible banishment might open a similar loophole.

The French FA is to decide on Marseille's fate on 30 August. If they are stripped of their league title and Paris-St-Germain, the runners-up and French Cup winners, are named as champions, the Parisian club would then be eligible for the European Cup. Nantes, the beaten finalists, could be switched to the Cup-Winners' Cup, leaving their Uefa Cup berth open.

Nantes are due to play Valencia, an attractive fixture Blackburn now hope to inherit. An FA spokesman, David Bloomfield, said it would be 'more than sympathetic' to Blackburn if invited to nominate an extra club.

Robert Coar, the Blackburn chairman, said last night: 'We're not jumping up and down just yet, but we are pursuing the matter and looking for support from the FA.'

Barnet yesterday lost their appeal against the Football League decision to grant 11 players free transfers. Their plea was rejected by a Football League Appeals Commission meeting at Watford. Barnet's players, like Gary Bull, a target for Nottingham Forest, have been cleared to move without fees.

Neil Warnock has been appointed manager of Huddersfield Town, 24 hours after the departure of Ian Ross.