Liverpool lobby is growing at Uefa

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The Independent Online

Supporters of Liverpool's bid to take part in next season's Champions' League believe there is a majority on Uefa's executive committee in favour of their inclusion ahead of the crucial meeting next month that will settle the question.

Supporters of Liverpool's bid to take part in next season's Champions' League believe there is a majority on Uefa's executive committee in favour of their inclusion ahead of the crucial meeting next month that will settle the question.

Following Wednesday's sensational European Cup final victory over Milan, Liverpool have gathered support from powerful figures such as the Bayern Munich president Franz Beckenbauer. While their case has also received the endorsement of the powerful G-14 group - which represents Europe's biggest clubs - there has been no firm indication from the 13 men on Uefa's executive committee that they also support Liverpool's case.

However, the lobby group that has been working on Liverpool's behalf now believes that it has the backing of the most influential figures on the executive committee, which will meet to discuss the case on 17 June in Manchester. The lobby group has also been encouraged by reports yesterday that Uefa's president Lennart Johansson, who was known to be supportive of Liverpool's case, will change the rules to accommodate the new European champions.

He was reported to have said: "The winner should have a chance to defend the title. We must sit down as a matter of real urgency to see if there is a way to make it happen. If there is a rule that harms the tournament, we have to discuss changing the rule."

Sources close to Uefa have indicated that reports that the 13 members of the executive committee would take part in a telephone conference on the subject before the meeting are wide of the mark, as any official discussion of the issue before 17 June could potentially harm the club's chances of being given a chance to defend their title.

Liverpool's supporters, from within the club and at the Football Association, have cultivated some of the committee's most influential members and believe that the club's best chance of success will be at the Manchester meeting.

One of their most powerful allies is the Cypriot Marios Lefkaritis, who is known to back Liverpool and holds sway among many of Uefa's smaller nations. The other key supporters are the Dutch delegate Drs Mathieu Sprengers and Viacheslav Koloskov of Russia.

The FA's chairman Geoff Thompson also serves on the executive committee, and he will be the only English representative at the meeting.

There are no trenchant opponents on the executive committee but there are serious obstacles among the senior staff at the governing body, who think England cannot have more than four Champions' League places.

While the new FA chief executive Brian Barwick had no choice but to stick with the original format of qualification for the Premiership's top four, he has lobbied hard on Liverpool's behalf.

Liverpool will play in the European Super Cup final against the Uefa Cup winners CSKA Moscow in Monaco in August. They will also play in Fifa's new World Club Championship in Japan in December, against the champions of South America, Oceania, Asia and North America.

Contrary to reports, they would be unlikely to pull out in protest if they were denied a place in the Champions' League.

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