Scotland's clubs will receive an extra place in the Uefa Cup in 2009-10, the Scottish Premier League have announced. Scotland will have at least four teams in European competition next season, and Mixu Paatelainen's Hibernian would join Celtic, Rangers, Motherwell and Queen of the South if they qualify via the Intertoto Cup. There will be a guaranteed five the following season as the Intertoto Cup will be replaced with an additional qualifying round in the Uefa Cup.
The team that finishes fourth in the SPL are likely to take that extra place, but their participation could come at the expense of part of their summer holidays.
The SPL secretary Iain Blair said: "The Uefa Cup will start in June and participation is mandatory, whereas the Intertoto had been voluntary. If a team don't want to start their season in June or early July, they no longer have a choice." Scotland will retain its two Champions League slots and Blair said that the Scottish Cup winners will continue to enter the Uefa Cup in the round before the group stage. The SPL's third-placed team will begin their campaign one round earlier while the fourth-placed team will start in early July in the second qualifying round. Only Partick Thistle and Hibs, on two previous occasions, have entered the Intertoto Cup since its inception in 1995.
Meanwhile, the SPL are yet to hear from Uefa over their request that the Scottish Cup runners-up do not qualify in future. Queen of the South are the third First Division side in three years to represent Scotland in the Uefa Cup.
Elsewhere, Nigeria beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 away in a World Cup African zone Group Four qualifier yesterday, with the Everton defender Joseph Yobo scoring his country's winning goal for the second weekend in succession.
The goal came after five minutes and ensured Nigeria kept up their 100 per cent record in their campaign. Nigeria will be sure of progressing to the second phase if they beat Equatorial Guinea in their next game at home in Abuja next Saturday.
Last week Yobo scored two minutes from the end of Nigeria's match in Sierra Leone, which the Super Eagles won 1-0.