FA fears Champions' League spat

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The Independent Football

The Football Association has requested an emergency fifth Champions' League place for English clubs in a move to head off a potentially disastrous dispute between Liverpool and Everton over their competing claims for a spot in next season's competition.

The Football Association has requested an emergency fifth Champions' League place for English clubs in a move to head off a potentially disastrous dispute between Liverpool and Everton over their competing claims for a spot in next season's competition.

The FA will write to Uefa this week in an attempt to resolve the problem that would occur should Liverpool beat Chelsea in the Champions' League semi-final and go on to win the European Cup and Everton finish fourth in the Premiership. Both clubs would then expect to claim a place in the Champions' League next season, although there are officially only four places for English clubs next season. Although Liverpool could theoretically still catch Everton, the Goodison Park club are four points clear of them in fourth place and have a game in hand.

While the FA is trying to resolve the dispute, Uefa has indicated that it will not help out Soho Square officials. The point was raised with Uefa's chief executive, Lars-Christer Olsson, by his FA counterpart, Brian Barwick, last week, but Uefa yesterday insisted it will not accommodate a fifth club.

According to a strict interpretation of Uefa's laws, teams are "invited" by their national association to play in the Champions' League. That will leave the FA with an unenviable choice should Liverpool win the competition and Everton finish fourth. The rancour felt by the blue side of Merseyside will not be diminished by their exclusion from the European Cup in 1985 and 1987 as a result of the ban imposed after the Heysel disaster in 1985.

Should Uefa refuse to admit another English side, the final decision on who competes would have to be made by the 13-man FA board, chaired by the chairman, Geoff Thompson. They would be unlikely to stand in the way of an English team that had become champions of Europe from defending their title which would mean a galling exclusion for Everton.

The dilemma occurred five years ago in Spain when Real Madrid won the European Cup but only finished fifth in the Spanish league. As a result, the Spanish football federation ordered fourth place Real Zaragoza to drop down into the Uefa Cup.

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