Many thanks to the Fiver for their in-depth research (aka googling) on the Liverpool-Champions League saga. The full text from Friday's (6 May '05) Fiver email follows. (Please excuse the slightly barmy language. They have a somewhat different audience from the regular Guardian readers.)
COULD LIVERPOOL STILL PLAY IN BIG CUP?
Let's be honest: if you took all the tramps, wastrels and bums that loiter around Soho Square, sponged down their Tin-stained suits, and gave them high-paying jobs at the FA, their decision-making couldn't be much worse than the current lot. And they might end up with less egg and/or secretaries on their faces too.
Exhibit of FA incompetence No32371: having decreed yesterday that Liverpool must finish fourth to qualify for next year's tournament, they forgot this contradicted a statement on their own website from March 10 2004. "Should Arsenal or Chelsea win [Big Cup], they will automatically qualify for next season's competition, but England will not gain an extra [Big Cup] place, even if they finish outside of the top four in the Premiership," it read. "In that scenario, the fourth-placed team in the Premiership will play in next season's Euro Vase."
Not surprisingly, the page was hastily removed by a Monster Munch-eating FA techie (although thanks to the marvels of google it can be viewed here).
Meanwhile, when contacted by the Fiver at 11am this morning, the FA said it would shortly be making a statement. Five hours later, we're still waiting.
Of course when it comes to bureaucratic bungling, Uefa isn't much better. For article 1.03 of their Big Cup regulations seems to suggest that Liverpool could be entitled to play in next season's competition if they beat AC Milan and finish fifth or sixth in the Premiership. Or at least the Fiver thinks it does.
It reads: "At the request of the national association concerned, [Big Cup] title-holders may be entered for this competition, as an additional representative of that association, if they have not qualified for [Big Cup] via the top domestic league championship.
"If, in such a case, the title-holders come from an association entitled to enter four teams for Big Cup, the fourth-placed club in the top domestic league championship has to be entered for [Euro Vase]."
Admittedly, Uefa's wording is nearly as woolly as a row of sheep at a Liberal Democrat party conference, but you can imagine Liverpool's lawyers having a field day. "This could open a real can of worms," one legal expert told the Fiver, something we would venture to suggest happened a long time ago.
Story attributed to Sean Ingle and Barry Glendenning.
What a mess.
And in other sour grapes news, Arsene Wenger has been sounding off against the Reds. While I agree with him that a team good enough to be in the Champions League final should also be good enough to finish in the top four of their local league, I think he's a bit green-eyed in saying this:
"The European Cup has been a complete cup competition - like Millwall reaching the FA Cup final - and maybe we will have Coventry in next year's final."
"It has convinced me even more that you cannot make a priority of the Champions League. It has to be the Premiership.
"In the championship you have to be consistent and that is a real reflection of your consistency in a season."
Just 'cos you're having a bad year Arsene-11-points-behind-Chelsea, is no reason to let loose with the verbal diarrhoea.