Football: English European hopes thwarted

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL'S governing body, Uefa, yesterday thwarted English clubs' hopes of a fourth place in next season's Champions' League.

There had been reports that a extra place would be granted if Manchester United were to win this year's European Cup final against Bayern Munich. But Uefa said that would only happen if Alex Ferguson's team finish outside the Premiership's top three - a highly improbable scenario.

A Uefa statement said: "The number of participating clubs from England depends upon Manchester United's final position in the Premier League. If Manchester United win the Champions' League final and also finish in first, second or third place in the Premier League, then three clubs from England would participate in the competition.

"The League champions and runners-up would enter the first group stage directly and the third-placed team would play in the third qualifying round. However, if Manchester United win the final, but were to finish below third place in the Premier League, then four English clubs would qualify automatically in next season's Champions' League. Manchester United would qualify automatically as Champions' League title-holders, and would be joined by the teams which finish in first, second and third place in the Premier League."

England are, however, still in contention to win an additional Fair Play place in the Uefa Cup. A Uefa spokesman said: "The top [Fair Play] country automatically gets a Uefa Cup place and there are also two more which will be decided by ballot in early June. At the moment there is a good chance that England might get one. The Fair Play place would go to the team who are top of the English FA's own Fair Play league. I understand that team is currently Sheffield Wednesday." England are currently second in the Fair Play rankings, between the leaders, Scotland, and Norway.

United and Bayern Munich will each receive 30,000 tickets for the European Cup final in Barcelona, Spanish organisers said yesterday. The increase of 5,000 per team was announced after a meeting about security arrangements for the final.

Uefa had said on Thursday that each club would receive only 25,000 tickets for the final at the Nou Camp on 26 May. The original decision sparked protests from fans and fears about crowd trouble.

Jan Molby, the former Liverpool midfielder and Swansea City manager, will manage the Nationwide Conference club Kidderminster Harriers next season. The Dane will replace Phil Mullen.

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