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Liverpool may not be able to defend crown

May 26, 2005 18:18 IST

Liverpool may have won one of the best games in Champions League history and beaten AC Milan to lift the title, but that won't be enough to guarantee them a place in Europe's biggest club league next season.

The European football governing body, UEFA, insisted it has no plans to change its rules to allow Liverpool to defend their Champions League crown.

Under competition rules a maximum of four clubs from each country can take part in the competition, and Liverpool missed out on a berth for next season by finishing fifth in England.

One of the great ironies of the situation is that by winning the cup for the fifth time they can keep the trophy in perpetuity -- but not defend it.

UEFA's executive committee next meets in Manchester on June 16 and will discuss the issue then.

"I fully sympathise with the club and I would love to have them in there - but we have rules," UEFA spokesman William Gaillard told BBC Radio Five Live.

"We can't change them in the middle of the season. The FA has said Everton are the fourth English club to qualify.

"They were used already once when Real Madrid won and were not among the qualifiers in the Spanish League. It is a tough decision to make but it is not for us to make, it is for the FA and they told us Everton would be the fourth English club."

Gaillard also told Sky Sports that he didn't expect Liverpool to play in next season's Champions League.

But the English Football Association has pledged its support to Liverpool's quest for a Champions League place after the breathtaking win over AC Milan in Istanbul.

"This is a case we've been arguing for some time and we'll go on raising it. I'm quite optimistic that over the next few days you will see a significant number of influential, non-English figures speaking out on Liverpool's behalf," said the FA's David Davies.

Sports minister of the United Kingdom, Richard Caborn, said it would be "a travesty" if Liverpool were not allowed to defend their title.

Caborn told the UK's Press Association: "I have raised the matter with UEFA's chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson and said it would be a travesty if Liverpool were not allowed to play in next year's competition, particularly after such an amazing final.

"They should re-think this issue and I think they will have to. Nothing is set in stone and it seems only right that the winners should have automatic re-entry rather than having to qualify through the domestic system. It is only common sense."

Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry has also called on UEFA to let his team defend the Champions League title. He was backed by Milan's manager Carlo Ancelotti who said Liverpool should be allowed into the competition next season after their astonishing victory at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.

Asked what arguments the club could put forward to European soccer's governing body, Parry told Sky Sports:

"You look at the support we brought, you look at the worldwide audience tonight, which I think they reckon is going to be a record, and you look at the game itself.

"I think we have to be given a shot. I think we are worthy champions and I think that's what the world will say."

Ancelotti said: "Yes, I think they should be allowed to defend the title," while Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez added: "Common sense says the winner must defend the title".

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