Football: Scottish Football - Uefa boost for Kilmarnock

KILMARNOCK WILL qualify for the Uefa Cup next season if they retain their current third place in the Scottish Premier League.

European football's governing body has been meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel, this week and has clarified the qualifying rules for next term's two club competitions.

Next season, the Scottish champions go into the Champions' League qualifying competition, while the Premier League runners-up and the Scottish Cup winners go into the Uefa Cup.

It had been mooted that because Rangers and Celtic are first and second in the League and also in the Scottish Cup final - thereby taking two of the European spots - the losing cup semi-finalists might profit. That prompted suggestions that Dundee United, who lost 2-0 to Celtic, and St Johnstone, beaten 4-0 by Rangers, might be offered a one-off play-off to determine Scotland's third European place.

Now, though, it has been confirmed that the third-placed Premier League team, currently Kilmarnock - with St Johnstone the only team capable of overtaking them - will take the second Uefa Cup place. A Uefa spokesman said: "There will be no play-off, because the teams in the Cup final are the same as in the top two League placings, then the third-placed team in the championship will take the cup position."

Aberdeen could indirectly benefit because of the complicated procedure of qualification through Uefa's Fair Play rankings. In January, Scotland led the rankings meaning, the team north of the border with the best individual ranking would also enter the Uefa Cup next season.

Kilmarnock led that list at the last count but, should they make it automatically by finishing third, Aberdeen, the next highest club outside the Old Firm, are in line to be offered an unlikely place.

The Scottish Premier League plans to extend its winter shutdown to four weeks next season to allow for the Millennium celebrations. An experimental three-week break this term was deemed a success and will now be extended to incorporate virtually the whole of January 2000. The change means the traditional New Year Old Firm derby is likely to be switched to Boxing Day.

The Polish international midfielder Dariusz Adamczuk is poised to join Celtic from Dundee for a nominal fee.