Liverpool have been given the opportunity to defend the European Cup they won in such a dramatic manner the other week. Time to celebrate? A rare and welcome victory for common sense? Well, you would think so wouldn’t you, but according to Les Lawson of the Liverpool International Supporters Club, Liverpool have been “treated with contempt” by UEFA for being asked to compete in the qualifying rounds of the tournament. In this article on the BBC website phrases such as “insult” are bandied about. I find this bizarre.
Remember that a couple of days ago Liverpool weren’t in the Champions league at all; whatever your opinion on the matter that was the situation, and within the rules of the competition at the time. In order for Liverpool to compete next season UEFA have had to change their rules mid-stream, and if I were a Liverpool fan I would be counting my blessings that they have done so. In any case, just a few weeks ago, when there was the suggestion that TNS could meet Liverpool in a play-off for their qualifying round spot, this was generally hailed as a great idea, a real fillip for the earlier rounds of the competition. Now that UEFA have effectively sanctioned such an event, some Liverpool fans are saying the club should tell “them to stick it”.
The simple fact is that according to the original rules, Liverpool should not be in next year’s competition. Do I think that rule was a sensible one? No. I think that the champions should always be allowed the chance to defend their trophy. That said, I don’t think that the team who finish fourth (or third, or even second) in the Premiership should compete in the Champions League in the first place, so there you go. Liverpool, I think, can count themselves very lucky.
Meanwhile, my team Man City look like they will be denied the chance to take Liverpool’s vacant spot in the UEFA cup. The Premier League say they are going to fight City’s corner, but they may as well not bother. While there has clearly been some sympathy for Liverpool’s plight at UEFA headquarters, I suspect no one down there gives a toss about City and so nothing will change. To be honest I don’t even know where this suggestion came from; it always seemed like a ludicrous non-starter from the off. I certainly never heard any UEFA official entertain the notion of City slipping into the tournament; perhaps it was dreamt up by some Manchester Evening News journo with an overactive imagination. No, if we wanted to qualify for Europe we could have done so by beating Middlesbrough in the last game of the season. We didn’t, and so we haven’t.
PostScript: If you haven’t already seen it, check out this site, purporting to be a blog from a new American fan of Manchester United; or the Manchester Buccaneers, as he prefers it. Very, very funny indeed; nearly as funny as the comments section, where a spectacularly large number of people demonstrate their lack of a sense of humour by blatantly not getting the joke.