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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Reds face wait over Euro decision
Steven Gerrard and Rafa Benitez
It's an exceptional situation which requires an exceptional solution
FA chief Brian Barwick
Liverpool face a three-week wait to find out whether they can defend their Champions League title next season.

Uefa's executive committee are set to discuss the issue of allowing a fifth English side in the competition at their meeting in Manchester on 17 June.

The governing body has already insisted it has no plans to change its rules but the matter is expected to be voted on by the 15-man ruling committee.

The Football Association are also set to intensify their lobbying of Uefa.

The Reds finished fifth in the Premiership - a place outside automatic qualification for the Champions League.

But, while the new European champions got a rousing hero's welcome from around 750,000 fans in Liverpool on Thursday evening, pressure continued to mount on Uefa behind the scenes.

Uefa has stood by its line that Liverpool can only play if Everton, who finished fourth in the Premiership, drop out.

FA chief executive Brian Barwick said: "It's an exceptional situation, that follows an exceptional match and which we believe requires an exceptional solution.

"What Uefa have, and I sympathise with them to a degree, is a situation where they are faced with not having their own champions in their own competition which is called the Champions League.

"I think in its own way that tells its own story.

It is called the Champions League so the champions should be able to defend it
Steven Gerrard
"Liverpool finished outside the top four. I think the FA were right and proper to put the top four into the Champions League.

"That's how teams kicked off in August, expecting a top-four finish to give them qualification or pre-qualification and that will not be changed."

It is believed several leading figures in European football, including Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer, are backing Liverpool to be allowed to defend their trophy without taking the place of another English side.

FA chairman Geoff Thompson is a Uefa vice-president and will be able to raise the issue at the meeting next month.

Uefa communications director William Gaillard insists he expects Liverpool to be playing in the Uefa Cup next season because a precedent had been set in the 2000-01 season.

Real Madrid defended the trophy despite finishing fifth because the Spanish football federation decided to hand them Real Zaragoza's place.

He said: "The rules are what they are. They were used already once when Real Madrid won...and actually were not among the qualifiers in the Spanish league.

"There could be a discussion with the executive committee but we don't normally change rules in the middle of the competition."

The FA will not press for Liverpool to be given outright qualification, but at least be allowed to join the qualifying rounds.

Welsh champions TNS have already offered to give up their place if Liverpool beat them in a 'pre-qualifier'.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez insisted his team should be allowed back into the Champions League next season.

"We have won the trophy. It is common sense that the winner should defend the title," said Benitez.

Meanwhile, Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry has also made his own plea to Uefa: "Look at the support, the worldwide audience and the game.

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

And Reds skipper Steven Gerrard added: "It is called the Champions League so the champions should be able to defend it."

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said: "Yes, I think they should be allowed to defend the title."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Sports Minister Richard Caborn


Interview: Uefa spokesman William Gaillard


Interview: The FA's David Davies


Report: BBC Five Live's sports news correspondent Gordon Farquahar



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