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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Liverpool get in Champions League
Steven Gerrard kisses the trophy
Unanimous means that everybody is supporting it. By definition, that is also the case here
Uefa chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson
Liverpool have been given the chance to defend their Champions League crown after Uefa handed them a place in the first qualifying round for next season.

The Reds beat AC Milan in last season's final but, because they finished out of the Premiership's top four, were not guaranteed entry in 2005-2006.

Uefa's executive committee changed its rules on Friday to allow Liverpool in.

"We wish to express our thanks to those who supported us and campaigned," said chief executive Rick Parry.

The key points:

  • Liverpool get the smallest share of England's television money if they reach the group stages.

  • But any other English teams involved - from Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton - will still get less money than they would have done were Liverpool not involved.

  • Liverpool get no "country protection" preventing them meeting other English clubs. But they are seeded. This means they could face Everton in the third qualifying round, but not Manchester United, and could be in a group with Chelsea, but not Arsenal.

  • In future, the title holders will be entered automatically.

Rafael Benitez's men will now face a first qualifying round first leg on 12 or 13 July and a second leg on 19 or 20 July.

Champions League
12-13 July: 1st round, 1st leg
19-20 July: 1st round, 2nd leg
26-27 July: 2nd round, 1st leg
2-3 Aug: 2nd round, 2nd leg
9-10 Aug: 3rd round, 1st leg
23-24 Aug: 3rd round, 2nd leg
16 July: v Bayer Leverkusen
22 July: FC Cologne
27 July: Shimizu S-Pulse
30 July: Kashima Antlers
Super Cup
26 Aug: v CSKA Moscow

That means they will now probably have to cancel scheduled friendlies against Bayer Leverkusen and Cologne.

And if successful in the first qualifying round, they will probably also have to cancel a pre-season tour of Japan, where they are due to play Shimizu S-Pulse and Kashima Antlers.

Uefa chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson told BBC Radio Five Live the decision by the 14-man executive committee was unanimous.

"Unanimous means that everybody is supporting it. By definition, that is also the case here.

"There were no discussions actually on where they should enter the competition because everybody was of the opinion they should be given the opportunity but they have to start from the beginning.

"They could not be allowed to get into the 32 for example."

But while there is joy for Liverpool, there has been disappointment for Manchester City.

The Uefa Cup spot which Liverpool had earned for finishing fifth in the Premiership will not transfer to another English club so City, who would have been next in line, will not be in Europe.

And it is likely that Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton will be unhappy at potentially sharing the television money with one other club.

Uefa spokesman William Gaillard admitted splitting the pot five ways rather than four will be "a burden on the other English-based clubs".

If Manchester United or Everton fail to reach the group stage but Liverpool do the pot could go back to being split four ways - but anyone involved from England will still get less because of the Reds.

If four English clubs reach the group stages, Chelsea will get 40%, Arsenal 30% and two out of Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton will get 15% each.

If all five get through Uefa will think again.

But while the others will feel hard done by, even Liverpool have suffered in comparison with other Champions League winners.

Normally the title holders get 30% of the money for their country if they are not also the domestic champions.

Meanwhile Uefa insists the saga which has dogged it since Liverpool finished fifth domestically and then won the Champions League will never be repeated.

"The Uefa executive committee decided to amend the regulations for the future editions of the Champions League, so that the holders will have the right to defend their title and therefore qualify automatically," said a statement on the organisation's website.

The new system is in marked contrast to 2000, when Real Madrid won the Champions League but finished outside of Spain's qualification positions.

On that occasion fourth-placed Real Zaragoza were relegated to the Uefa Cup.

Reacting to the news, Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann told BBC Radio Five Live: "It's tremendous news, great for the club.

"We've still got two or three weeks to prepare, which should be enough to get in physical shape to cope with the pre-season schedule."

We always said that this was an exceptional situation which required an exceptional solution
Brian Barwick
FA chief executive

And Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick added: "We thank the Uefa executive committee and especially its president Lennart Johansson for listening to the strength of the argument for Liverpool's entry.

"We always said that this was an exceptional situation which required an exceptional solution. For the very first time, one country has five teams in the Champions League and we have to be delighted at that.

"We believed there were very strong sporting reasons for Liverpool to defend their title, not least after that fantastic final in Istanbul. That view has prevailed, and rightly so."

Sports minister Richard Caborn added: "I'm delighted that Uefa have decided to allow Liverpool to defend their trophy.

"This is a triumph for common sense and the spirit of sport. I look forward to the start of the new season and the British clubs making a powerful impact again."

But some Liverpool supporters are unhappy with the decision.

Les Lawson, spokesman for the Liverpool International Supporters' Club, said: "Uefa has been caught with egg on their faces over this because the FA put the first four in the Premiership into next season's tournament.

"It means Uefa has had to sort it out and they have done the minimum possible. They have treated their own champions with contempt.

"It is a disgrace. Liverpool are the top team in Europe because they are the holders and have beaten Europe's best. They are being treated like TNS or other very small clubs.

"To be told they have to start in the first qualifier is wrong and a real kick in the teeth."

And Alan Kennedy, who scored the winning goal for the Reds in the 1981 final against Real Madrid, added: "Coming in at the early stages disregards where Liverpool finished in the Champions League.

"They won it, so they should be entitled to be in at the third qualifying round."

Interview: Former Liverpool captain Phil Neal

Interview: Former Liverpool defender Alan Kennedy

Interview: Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann

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01 Jun 05 |  Liverpool
Johansson boosts Liverpool hopes
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