Football: German gaffe puts Leeds back in Europe

Joe Lovejoy,Football Correspondent
Thursday 01 October 1992 23:02

LEEDS UNITED were reinstated in the European Cup last night, and are expected to start all square in a third game with Stuttgart to decide which of the two teams will go through to the second round.

Leeds, eliminated on the away-goals rule on Wednesday night, owe their reprieve to a gaffe by the German champions totally out of keeping with their national reputation for efficiency.

Stuttgart, who won the home leg 3-0 and were beaten 4-1 at Elland Road, lost the right to progress through Andreas Buck's away goal when it was revealed that they had fielded a fourth foreigner, contrary to the rules of the competition.

Wednesday's result will almost certainly be declared invalid by Uefa, and Leeds awarded a 3-0 win - the score used in defaults - when the governing body of European football meets in Geneva tomorrow to confirm the results of inquiries which showed that Stuttgart had exceeded the three permitted foreigners by selecting Jovo Simanic, a defender from Belgrade. Such a ruling will leave the score 3-3 on aggregate, necessitating a third game to be played.

Simanic, a 27-year-old Yugoslav amateur, formerly of Partizan Belgrade, was sent on as an 82nd-minute substitute for the striker Maurizio Gaudino - just seconds after the Germans had introduced Switzerland's Adrian Knup. With Serbia's Slobodan Dubajic and Eyjolfur Sverrisson, of Iceland, on from the start, they finished the game with four 'non-nationals' on the field.

Dieter Hoeness, Stuttgart's general manager, pleaded that putting on Simanic had been an oversight - an understandable one, perhaps, at a time when Leeds were threatening to overwhelm his team, but Uefa was having none of that. Having a fourth foreigner on the bench was in itself a breach of the rules, which in this case were unequivocal.

Although the European ruling body could opt to disqualify the Germans, a Uefa spokesman said last night that Leeds could expect a third game, at a neutral venue, in which they would start all square.

Nigel Pleasants, the Leeds secretary, revealed that he had instigated the investigation which led to yesterday's turnabout, 'after hearing a rumour that Stuttgart had fielded an ineligible player'.

He had checked the nationalities of the German squad and, on discovering the discrepancy, he had faxed Uefa 'for clarification'.

Leeds were in ebullient mood, Stuttgart distraught. A third game was not good enough for Bill Fotherby, managing director at Elland Road, who said: 'Rules are rules, and we think Leeds should go straight into the next round.'

Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds manager, echoed that sentiment. 'If we'd done what Stuttgart have I would expect to concede the tie,' he said. 'If this was the FA Cup and you had an ineligible player on your team sheet, you'd be thrown out. I cannot see how Uefa can do anything else than hand the tie to Leeds.'

Stuttgart's president, Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, said the club had admitted their mistake immediately in a report to Uefa and were now hoping for a 'merciful ruling'. He pointed out that the club stood to lose 'millions of marks', and jabbed the finger of blame at Hoeness and Christoph Daum - manager and coach respectively.

He said there was no question of sacking either man, 'but if a mistake like that had happened in a commercial organisation, the board would have to be fired straight away'.

Leeds and Stuttgart will both go into today's second-round draw for the European club competitions, to be made in Zurich. Uefa's conduct committee will convene in special session in Geneva tomorrow, and will decide when and where any third game would be played. Leeds will be represented by Fotherby and Pleasants, and Alan Roberts, their general manager.

Leeds fans who had written off about pounds 50,000 worth of bets on their side to win the European Cup after Wednesday's result may yet collect after all. The bookmakers William Hill confirmed that bets on Leeds to win the trophy will be reinstated if Stuttgart are disqualified.

PAOK Salonika's Uefa Cup match against Paris Saint Germain was abandoned last night after the Greek fans, whose team were 2-0 down and 4-0 behind on aggregate, attempted a half-time pitch invasion and then threw objects when the players emerged for the second half.


Scots' joyous passage, page 33

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