Football: Newcastle guaranteed European place

The idiosyncrasies of qualification for the two surviving Uefa competitions bring Toon delight.
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The Independent Online
THE TOON ARMY can start packing. Tottenham's Worthington Cup victory on Sunday did not just earn them a place in Europe, it also appears to have gained one for their FA Cup semi-final opponents Newcastle United - regardless of their progress in that competition.

This is the extraordinary consequence of the European football union's re-organisation of the European competitions and the successful seasons being enjoyed by Spurs and the other FA Cup semi-finalists, Arsenal and Manchester United. It will provide an enormous boost to Ruud Gullit as he attempts to attract players to strengthen his team for a Premiership challenge next season.

The re-organisation of their competitions that Uefa instituted earlier this season to stave off a private super league has meant the expansion of the Champions' League and Uefa Cup and the end of the Cup-Winners' Cup.

This is crucial to Newcastle as, in the past, a team which won the League (Worthington) Cup, but also qualified for the Cup-Winners' Cup, had to enter the latter as it was regarded as the more senior competition. The Uefa Cup place allocated to the League Cup winner was then awarded to a high-placed Premiership club - Blackburn Rovers benefited in this way from Chelsea winning both the League (Coca-Cola) Cup and Cup-Winners' Cup last season.

Under Uefa's new plans, which have to be ratified at an executive committee meeting in Tel Aviv on 22 April, the Worthington Cup winners take up a Uefa Cup place unless they qualify for the priority competition, the Champions' League. Likewise for the the FA Cup winner. With Arsenal and Manchester United set to qualify for the Champions' League by finishing in the top three of the Premiership, and Tottenham already in the Uefa Cup after Sunday's Wembley win, Newcastle would be the only FA Cup semi-finalist without a European place.

It might be thought that, should Newcastle lose in the semi-final, that place might be given to the club finishing fifth in the Premiership (who, unlike last year, will not automatically gain a European place). But a Uefa spokeswoman, Tania Baima, told The Independent yesterday that, if the domestic cup winners and runners-up were qualified for Europe the semi-finalists would play off for the allocated place. If one of those teams were already qualified for Europe, as seems likely to be the case in England, the other team will qualify without need of a play-off.

This means, unless the Football Association objects at Tel Aviv next month, that Newcastle will be in Europe. It will be the second year in a row they have qualified by the back-door, having entered the Cup-Winners' Cup last year because Arsenal, who beat then in the FA Cup final, were in the Champions' League. The previous year they became the first club to benefit from runners-up being allowed in the Champions' League.

The re-organisation of European competitions, and the Football League's success in retaining a Uefa Cup place for the winners of the Worthington Cup, means the fifth-placed Premiership club are not scheduled to be in Europe next season. This is because, having had eight European entrants this season, English involvement is reduced to six next season. There is a prospect of extra representation through Uefa's fair Play League, or the Intertoto Cup, but both are marginal prospects.

Should Newcastle lose to Spurs in the FA Cup semi-final on 11 April, yet qualify for Europe, whoever comes fifth in the league may feel the Toon are undeserving of a Uefa Cup place. Geordie supporters will prefer to look to the omens of history.

In 1969 they came ninth in the league but, because of the arcane principles behind the Inter-City Fairs' Cup, the Uefa Cup's predecessor, they gained entry ahead of third-placed Everton, Chelsea (fifth), Spurs (sixth) and West Ham (eighth). Those four were passed over as the competition, conceived as a contest between cities that hosted trade fairs, only allowed one entrant per city. Liverpool and Arsenal qualified ahead of their Merseyside and capital rivals, allowing Newcastle to enter. They went on to win the competition, their only honour since 1955.

BRITISH AND IRISH CLUBS IN EUROPE

1998-99

ENGLAND

Champions' League

Arsenal (Premiership champions) qualified for League; Manchester United (Premiership runners-up) qualified for qualifying rounds.

Cup-Winners' Cup

Chelsea (ECWC holders); Newcastle (FA Cup runners-up - Arsenal, FA Cup winners, qualified for Champions' League).

Uefa Cup

Liverpool (3rd in Premiership); Leeds Utd (5th in Premiership); Blackburn Rovers (6th in Premiership - qualified as 4th-placed team, Chelsea, were in ECWC); Aston Villa (7th in Premiership - qualified as Coca-Cola Cup winners, Chelsea, were in ECWC. This place awarded because of England's high placing in Uefa Fair Play League).

SCOTLAND

Champions' League

Celtic (champions) qualified for qualifying rounds.

Cup-Winners' Cup

Hearts (Scottish Cup winners).

Uefa Cup

Rangers (2nd in league), Kilmarnock (4th in league - qualified as 3rd- placed team, Hearts, were in ECWC).

WALES

Champions' League

Barry Town (champions) qualified for qualifying rounds.

Cup-Winners' Cup

Bangor City (Welsh Cup winners).

Uefa Cup

Newtown (2nd in league).

NORTHERN IRELAND

Champions' League

Cliftonville (champions) qualified for qualifying rounds.

Cup-Winners' Cup

Glentoran (Irish Cup winners).

Uefa Cup

Linfield (2nd in league).

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Champions' League

St Patrick's (champions) qualified for qualifying rounds.

Cup-Winners' Cup

Cork City (FAI Cup winners).

Uefa Cup

Shelbourne (2nd in league).

1999-2000

ENGLAND

Champions' League

3 qualifiers: 1st, 2nd, 3rd in Premiership (currently Manchester Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea). Top two go into Champions' League, 3rd club go into qualifying rounds. No extra place if Manchester Utd also win this season's European Cup.

Cup-Winners' Cup

Discontinued, no extra place in Uefa Cup if Chelsea win this season's competition.

Uefa Cup

*3 qualifiers: 4th in league (currently Leeds), Worthington Cup winners (Tottenham), FA Cup winners (or best-placed team not already qualified - this will be Newcastle).

*Will gain extra place in unlikely event of Manchester Utd finishing out of top three in Premiership but winning European Cup.

*May also be extra Uefa Cup qualifier through Fair Play League. No guarantee that England will gain a place, if they do it will go to highest team in domestic Fair Play League not otherwise qualified. Front-runners are Leicester, Sheffield Wednesday and Liverpool.

*Intertoto Cup (semi-finalists go into Uefa Cup): England have one place, currently likely to go to Wimbledon. Place awarded to highest league finisher not otherwise qualified who wants to enter - must be in top 12 in league. Leicester, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest and Southampton have also expressed interest. The English club's first match will be on 3 July.

SCOTLAND

Champions' League

Champions qualify (for qualifying rounds).

Uefa Cup

League runners-up and Scottish Cup winners qualify.

WALES

Champions' League

Champions qualify (for qualifying rounds).

Uefa Cup

League runners-up and Welsh Cup winners qualify.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Champions' League

Champions qualify (for qualifying rounds).

Uefa Cup

League runners-up and Irish Cup winners qualify.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Champions' League

Champions qualify (for qualifying rounds).

Uefa Cup

League runners-up and FAI Cup winners qualify

l Scotland currently lead Uefa Fair Play league, which would entitle them to an extra Uefa Cup place, Wales and Republic of Ireland may qualify for draw - along with England - for other two places.

l Number of qualifying places are decided by Uefa rankings, which will be up-dated at end of European club season. Scotland has outside chance of gaining an extra Uefa Cup place.

l All five nations may enter clubs for Intertoto Cup.

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