FA Cup Final: Cardiff’s UEFA Cup hopes

With Cardiff City’s big 1-0 win on Sunday over Barnsley in the second FA Cup semi-final, the Football Association, the Football Association of Wales (FAW) and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) find themselves stuck in a right old quandry.

As Cardiff City — an FAW member (and only an associate member of the English FA) face Portsmouth (a team who could easily qualify for the UEFA Cup through league participation) in the final, it means they stand a real chance of qualifying for the UEFA Cup, as the winner (or, if the winner’s already through by other means, the runner-up) of the FA Cup.

The catch? Well, they’re a Welsh club. Which means they can’t be entered into the UEFA Cup for winning the English domestic cup. Or, rather, they can’t be entered into the UEFA Cup by the English FA. And, of course, the FAW are unwilling to enter Cardiff City into the UEFA Cup as their entrant over the Welsh Cup victors.

While the FA has said it will review its rules, it maintains that Cardiff City play in England (along with Swansea in the league system and Merthyr Tydfil, among other teams, in the non-league system) as a “guest” team, and thus cannot qualify for Europe through its competitions. Manager Dave Jones has already said he will not take it lying down if Cardiff are barred from playing in the UEFA Cup should they make it.

A slight lifeline for Cardiff: UEFA are set to discuss giving Cardiff ‘wildcard’ status in next season’s UEFA Cup should they make it. I see a number of issues here, not least who Cardiff would replace? Would UEFA take a spot away from England? Or from Wales? Or from some poor low-coefficient country with only one UEFA Cup spot?

My personal view: Rules are rules and Cardiff know full well that if they want to have the privilege of playing in Europe they will have to do it through Wales. They could’ve chosen to go to the League of Wales, but they’ve stayed and are paying the price. The best way to settle it would be for Portsmouth to win, and still miss out via the league.

Bit harsh, but fair, imo.

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