Football: Liverpool denied a second chance

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LIVERPOOL'S hopes of returning to European competition by default this season were ended by Fifa yesterday.

As expected, football's ruling body, meeting in Switzerland, decided not to disqualify Spartak Moscow, Liverpool's European Cup-Winners' Cup second-round conquerors. The Liverpool board will consider the verdict over the weekend, but the chief executive, Peter Robinson, said he did not expect the club to contest it.

Spartak had fielded a midfield player, Mikhail Rusayev, in the 6-2 aggregate victory over Liverpool, without receiving a compulsory international transfer certificate for him.

But as Rusayev had finished, and been released from, his contract with his former club, Oldenburg of Germany's Second Division, he was free to play for another club, Fifa decided. Uefa concurred.

The Russian football federation approached the German FA requesting a transfer certificate on 23 June, it materialised. The Germans were, however, unable to determine which player was referred to in the request and asked for more information, which the Russians failed to provide. Nor did they make another request.

Rene Eberle, a Uefa spokesman, said the Russian authorities were guilty only of a 'clear violation' of Fifa rules - which they will be asked to explain.

Gary Johnson is contemplating staying at home today after failing to step up from caretaker to full-time manager at First Division Cambridge United, despite guiding the team to victory over Oldham in the Coca-Cola Cup this week. The job went instead to Ian Atkins, the 35-year-old assistant manager at Birmingham City.

'My priority is to keep the club in the First Division,' Atkins said. 'I can understand how Gary Johnson feels, but these things happen in football. I'd be happy to see him stay at the club.' Johnson will contemplate the offer of the No 2 position this weekend.

Back in Birmingham, City fans will be asked by the Blues Action Group to sign a petition during today's game calling for the chairman, Samesh Kumar, and his brother Ramesh, a director of the club, to resign.

The St Andrews club is currently in receivership because of the collapse of the Kumars' business empire - their 84 per cent stake in the club forms part of the assets put up for sale.

Barnet's fans may be demanding the reinstatement of Barry Fry, sacked as manager this week, but the headhunters are already on his trail.

On Tuesday Fry will meet John Reddy, the chairman of the GM Vauxhall Conference side Merthyr Tydfil, when Reddy will make an offer of a new general manager's position to Fry.

Darren Salton, Luton's Scottish under-21 international seriously injured in a road accident last week in which a woman died, was yesterday making 'stable and steady progress' in Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge.

Fifa has dismissed Napoli's request for Diego Maradona to be suspended, after a dispute about transfer guarantees from his new club, Sevilla, saying it had no reason to doubt Sevilla would pay the outstanding dollars 4.5m ( pounds 3m) of the dollars 7.5m (pounds 5m) transfer fee.