FA set to rule against Anfield in Champions' League place row

Liverpool are almost certain to miss out on the Champions' League next season if they finish outside the top four in the Premiership - even if they go on to win the competition.

Liverpool are almost certain to miss out on the Champions' League next season if they finish outside the top four in the Premiership even if they win the competition this season.

The FA board is due to discuss the issue at a meeting today, but will not make any decision at least until the semi-final between Chelsea and Liverpool has been played. However, the Premier League would resist any attempt to remove Champions' League qualification from the side that finishes fourth. The dilemma is that Everton are favourites to finish fourth. If Liverpool were to win the Champions' League they could present a strong case for playing in the tournament next season. It would be up to the FA board to decide but the Premier League feels strongly it should go to the fourth-placed side.

"I'm sure the board will take the view that the top four should go into the Champions' League," one neutral club chairman said. "That was the rule everybody was playing by at the start of the season. I can't see the board giving the place to Liverpool if they get to the final and win because they won't have qualified through the League­ even the World Cup winners have to qualify for the next tournament now." The FA has asked Uefa, the European game's governing body, if it can enter five clubs into the Champions' League should Liverpool win the tournament, but that plea is certain to be rejected as the rules clearly state that a maximum of four clubs per country is allowed. The regulations also stress that it will be up to the FA board to decide the teams in question. "At the request of the national association concerned," the rules state, "the Uefa Champions' League title holders may be entered for this competition, as an additional representative of that association, if they have not qualified for the Uefa Champions' League

via the top domestic league championship. If, in such a case, the title holders come from an association entitled to enter four teams for the Uefa Champions' League, the fourth-placed club in the top domestic league championship has to be entered for the Uefa Cup."

Uefa's communications director, William Gaillard, said: "Should those circumstances arise it is up to the FA to make a decision."

Incidentally, the FA's chief executive Brian Barwick, who is a Liverpool fan, does not have a voting role on the board.

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