Uefa's rule change gives SPL winners £10m bonus

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The winners of the Scottish Premier League are almost certain to qualify directly for next season's Champions' League proper because of an amendment by Uefa to the tournament's rules.

Under the current system, Rangers, the SPL winners, entered the competition in the third and final qualifying round, with the runners-up, Celtic, starting a round earlier.

But the amendment of the rules, arising from the debate that allowed Liverpool to defend their title, has created a "holder's spot" in the qualifying process. If the winners of this season's tournament qualify for next season's via their domestic league position, which is likely, their group-phase slot will be taken by a club from the country ranked 10th on the Uefa list - Scotland.

If the winners of this season's Champions' League fail to qualify for next season's event via domestic results, the SPL clubs will enter the tournament the same way as this season. In any case, the club finishing second in the SPL will enter at the second qualifying round. Direct entry to the group stages, and a windfall of £10m, will add intensity to the SPL title race.

Celtic hold a one-point lead ahead of Hearts. Rangers are fourth, 15 points off the top, although they remain in this season's Champions' League for the moment. A win at home to Internazionale next week would see them become the first Scottish club to reach the knockout stages.