UEFA Intertoto Cup: English Joy

Intertoto Cup: English Joy


UEFA's bid to make the Intertoto Cup, which has been to now principally a European betting competition, a more central part of the European soccer calendar has not been received with great zest by Premier League clubs. Here is a summary of the comings and goings leading up to the eventual entry of Sheffield Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur and Wimbledon in the affair. All the following excerpts are taken without permission but with due credits from the Electronic Telegraph and as such, may disappear at any time!

Graham Turner, April 28

THOSE clubs who believe the Inter-Toto Cup is a cheap and easy passport to Europe may think again after yesterday's draw for the summer tournament. England have been allocated three of the 60 places in the cup, from which the last four will qualify for the preliminary round of the UEFA Cup in August. Group games run from June 24-25 to July 22-23, with the final matches completed by Aug 2.

One English club will play opposition from Germany and Luxembourg away, and Denmark and Poland at home. The second will face Swiss and Swedish clubs at home, and must travel to Slovenia and Germany. The third team are at home to Turkish and Israeli clubs, and travel to Belgium and Slovakia. Scotland's representative will entertain sides from Croatia and Iceland, with trips to France and Austria.

Entrants will be named on May 31. Yugoslavia have been re-admitted to the international fold after clearance by FIFA and will have a club in the Inter-Toto Cup.

John Ley, May 23

The Football Association and the Premier League must pay at least 100,000 in compensation to UEFA because of the disinterest in the Inter Toto Cup among Premiership clubs. All but Sheffield Wednesday have confirmed that they will not take part in the summer tournament. Wednesday will decide today whether to accept an invite. The FA took three places in the tournament; for each place not taken up the association concerned must pay 50,000, which means the final bill could reach 150,000.

Ian Ross, May 24

Sheffield Wednesday have rejected a Premier League invitation to enter the Inter Toto Cup. So England will not be represented in the tournament and the FA and Premier League must share a fine of 150,000 for failing to take up their three places.

John Ley and Henry Winter,May 26

UEFA yesterday threatened to ban all English clubs from participating in each of its three major competitions if the Football Association and Premier League fail to persuade three Premiership teams to enter this summer's much-maligned Inter Toto Cup. European football's governing body has taken umbrage against the decision of all eligible Premiership clubs to reject an invitation to enter the Inter Toto Cup, despite the fact that at the start of the season all but Arsenal and Manchester United agreed, in principle, to enter though no formal vote was taken.

It is unlikely that UEFA could ban English clubs from next season's competition because six teams have already qualified for the Champions' League, Cup- Winners' Cup and UEFA Cup. The ban would take effect for the 1996-97 season. The first shots were fired by UEFA in Vienna this week when associations gathered for the European Cup final. Upon hearing the threat, Sir Bert Millichip, the chairman of the FA, returned immediately to England. Though 10 of Europe's 49 countries, including Italy and Spain, rejected their invitations, the FA passed it to the Premier League and eventually received three places. It is understood that Germany, having agreed to enter, are also considering a withdrawal and are monitoring the English situation.

The tournament gives the last four teams a back-door entry into the preliminary round of the UEFA Cup. David Davies, the FA's director of public affairs, said: "The clubs [from the Premier League] have until May 31 to nominate the three clubs to the Inter Toto tournament. We understand the Premier League are still hopeful that will happen." A spokesman for the Premier League, added: "We are currently in contact with clubs in relation to the Inter Toto competition. We will make clear on May 31 what the position is in terms of English participation in the competition." The tournament gives the last four teams a back-door entry into the preliminary round of the UEFA Cup, but 12 clubs - Newcastle, Tottenham, Queens Park Rangers, Wimbledon, Southampton, Chelsea, Arsenal, Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham, Coventry, Manchester City and Aston Villa - all said no.

Until yesterday morning the severest punishment the Premier League clubs feared appeared to be a 150,000 fine - 50,000 for each place they failed to take up. However, after an exhausting season for all member clubs, chairmen decided the competition was not worth puting their players through an extra series of games. UEFA, however, has used the ultimate threat and its move has prompted the Premier League to go back to its member clubs to find three teams prepared to alter their pre-season plans to enter the competition. Group games will run from June 24-25 to July 22-23 with the final matches completed by Aug 2 - 17 days before the start of the 1995-96 Premiership season.

Christopher Davies, June 1

Many will see the decision to enter the much-maligned competition as a case of greed over-ruling common sense. While four places in the preliminary round of the UEFA Cup are at stake for the most successful teams in the Inter-Toto, the tournament is likely to become farcical with scratch teams being fielded by the English. There could even be the ridiculous situation of all three English clubs not using their own grounds for home games because of stadium refurbishment - Hillsborough - and pitch repairs - Selhurst Park and White Hart Lane. It is unlikely that Tottenham will choose their England players (Walker, Sheringham, Barmby and Anderton) to play in the opening game on June 24 just 13 days after the Umbro Cup match against Brazil.

The Premier League also said the clubs came forward voluntarily The Premier League said: "All clubs have made it clear they are entering the competition in a positive frame of mind."This contradicts the negative statements made previously by Spurs manager Gerry Francis and Wimbledon's Joe Kinnear. The Premier League also said the clubs came forward voluntarily which contradicts the fact the deadline had to be put back as "volunteers" could not be found. An additional problem for Tottenham is that their pitch is full of holes after four London Monarchs' World League games. The last American football match is on June 10 and while the Spurs groundsman could have repaired the damage in two months, two weeks is not enough. Teams will have to play six games from June 24-Aug 2 to qualify for the UEFA Cup whose first preliminary round tie is Aug 8. The English clubs would want to play their strongest line-up then, but the possible UEFA Cup schedule alters pre-season training geared for the Premiership's start on Aug 19.
Intertoto Cup

Colm Ó Riain