Uefa must continue to reward champions

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It was the scenario that Tottenham had feared for so long. After a gruelling season where they had relinquished third place in the Premier League to Arsenal, even fourth spot was not enough to claim Champions League football.

Harry Redknapp's side had strained every last sinew to revive their season following a mid-term collapse, and fourth position was the fruit of their late campaign labours.

Yet Chelsea's ascension to the throne of European football last Saturday cast Spurs from the continent's top table and into the arms of the Champions League's less desirable sister competition.

Spurs knew a season of hard graft could be undone at the Allianz Arena, and so it transpired as Didier Drogba's final kick as a Chelsea player propelled him into Blues legend and, in turn, sullied his name at White Hart Lane for eternity.

Some Spurs supports cried foul, claiming Uefa's current rules affording priority to the Champions League winners needed altering to prevent such a scenario in the future. Uefa president Michel Platini was concise in his response.

"No, they have not been punished," he said. "They know the rules, they should have been third and not fourth."

Platini is, of course, correct and although there is an element of sympathy for Spurs in the way 38-games of lung-busting work is undone in an instant, the Champions League should continue to reward teams who have won something.

Yes, neither Manchester United or Arsenal had a triumph to speak of last season, while the latter have been unable to claim any silverware for the last seven years.

But there should be no argument suggesting that Spurs are more deserving of a place in next season's Champions League than Chelsea, given that the latter have achieved the ultimate aim of winning the competition.

Chelsea have earned a direct route into the tournament as reward for being champions, and finishing outside the top four in the Premier League should not be able to take precedent just because the greater exertions to achieve it.

Yet the possibility of such a scenario occurring once again may be prevented, should any serious proposals for a rule change be put to the relevant Uefa committee.

"We can always change the rules. We can always discuss the rules, but not during the competition," explained Platini, as reported by The Guardian.

"We have decided not to change the rules or regulations of the competition for three years. So in three years we can change, that means we will come back if you wish.

"Everything can be discussed, the rules, yellow cards, but not during the competition. Perhaps in the next executive committee we can speak about it. I can put that, but they may say no."

The prospect of a country receiving four Champions League places, plus a further position should a team from that league lift the trophy, has also been mooted, and would have been an ideal resolution as far as Spurs and Chelsea were concerned.

But Platini has ruled this idea out, and believes there should be a maximum of four places provided to each league.

"I think so, but it is the matter of the executive committee, a matter for discussion," explained Platini when asked if four teams was enough.

"If you put more in one part you have to take out more from another part and because we always play with 32 teams, with the winner is 31, so we have to decide.

"Perhaps it could be for discussion in the future about the participation of more than four but for the moment it is not possible because the regulations are for four."

The regulations were initially changed in 2005 to allow Liverpool an opportunity to qualify for the competition after they had triumphed so dramatically in Istanbul.

They have been further altered to allow the winners a direct passage into the competition, and it is surely a rule Uefa will not entertain the idea of changing when the committee next meet.

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