Football: Premier sides vie for Uefa selection

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The Independent Online
SIX Premier League clubs could have an anxious wait at the end of this month after a Football Association ruling on European entries made yesterday.

The FA stated that if Arsenal or Sheffield Wednesday win both the FA Cup and the Coca-Cola Cup then the winners will enter the European Cup-Winners' Cup but the losers (unless Wednesday finish third in the Premier League) will not have a European place. Instead, the second and third-placed teams in the Premier League would enter the Uefa Cup.

This ruling does make the finish to the League season even more interesting, because the consolation prize will encourage the present leading trio - Aston Villa, Norwich City and Manchester United - as well as giving additional incentive for a strong finale to Blackburn Rovers, Wednesday and Manchester City.

Mike Wilmore, of the FA, confirmed: 'The runners-up at Wembley, if they are the same in both cup competitions, will miss out on Europe. Uefa rules do not allow the Coca-Cola Cup runners-up to participate; entrants must be the winners of a recognised competition.'

The Coca-Cola Cup final is on 18 April, the Premier League programme finishes on 8 May and then six or seven clubs may be left wondering until the FA Cup final on 15 May. Curiously, Uefa does allow runners- up in another competition, the FA Cup, a place in the Uefa Cup competition if the FA Cup winners also happen to have won the League.

The Football League will now be wondering whether its competition, the Coca-Cola Cup, whose status as the League Cup was not assured until the winners were nominated for Europe, is being downgraded for the benefit of the FA Premier League. Arsenal and Wednesday, by sharing the two cups, could remove misgivings. Any sympathy for the Wembley losers will be tempered by a calculation yesterday that Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday will share approximately pounds 7m from the two competititions: both have believed to have made pounds 1m from their runs to the two finals; they will take a percentage, along with Wembley and the FA, from the pounds 5m generated by the two finals, they will share pounds 300,000 prize-money and both clubs will have gained substantial sums from marketing ventures.

Aston Villa accepted yesterday that their England Under-21 winger, Steve Froggatt, will not play again this season. He hurt a knee in October and has been trying to play since, but after weekend training Ron Atkinson announced that Froggatt would have an operation tomorrow in order that he be fit to restart in August.

Lennie Lawrence, the manager of fast-sinking Middlesbrough, declared that he would be calling up youngsters 'who will wear a Boro shirt with pride and passion' for tonight's home game against Arsenal. Boro's 4-0 defeat at Chelsea on Saturday, he said 'was a shambles and unacceptable'.