The FA faced major embarrassment today after it emerged that its decision to exclude Liverpool from next year’s Champions League unless they finished fourth in the Premiership flies in the face of a ruling they made last year when Chelsea and Arsenal were potentially in a similar predicament.
The FA declared just yesterday that the only way English teams can qualify for the Champions League is by finishing in the top four of the Premiership. It therefore confirmed that if Liverpool beat AC Milan and are crowned European champions later this month, they will not be allowed to defend their title unless they also beat Everton and Bolton to fourth spot in the league.
However, last year, at a time when Chelsea and Arsenal were still challenging in Europe, the FA announced that if either side won the Champions League, they would be permitted to re-enter the competition the following year regardless of where they finished in the Premiership.
A statement on the FA’s web site, dated March 10 2004, read: “Should Arsenal or Chelsea win the Champions League, they will automatically qualify for next season’s competition, but England will not gain an extra Champions League place, even if they finish outside of the top four in the Premiership. In that scenario, the fourth-placed team in the Premiership will play in next season’s Uefa Cup.”