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By ESPN Staff
Aug 2, 2006

UEFA slam Milan but grant them Euro place

LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) - UEFA gave AC Milan a reluctant go-ahead on Wednesday to play in this season's Champions League, but only after heavily criticising the club for its part in the Serie A match-fixing scandal.

Milan will face Cork City of Ireland or former champions Red Star Belgrade of Serbia in the first leg of the third qualifying round next week after UEFA's emergency panel decided they could play in Europe's premier club competition.

The six-times European champions were found guilty in the Serie A match-fixing probe but an Italian soccer appeals court adjudicating in the scandal reduced their initial punishment.

Milan, initially deducted 15 points, had the deficit cut to eight which enabled them to be included in last Friday's Champions League draw.

But in a strongly-worded statement issued on UEFA's website on Wednesday, UEFA said it did not have enough legal grounds to refuse them entry -- but would change their regulations in future.

UEFA also severely criticised Milan in words rarely used by European soccer's governing body.

The statement said: 'The UEFA Emergency Panel, being competent to decide on this matter, came to the conclusion that it had no choice but to admit AC Milan for the UEFA club competitions 2006/07 for formal reasons because of an insufficient legal basis in the regulations which would allow not admitting AC Milan under the specific circumstances.

'The UEFA Emergency Panel made a clear statement to the club that 'this admission is far from being given with the utmost conviction. AC Milan takes advantage of the fact that UEFA lacks legal grounds to refuse the club's admission.

'In this respect, AC Milan is herewith informed that the necessary adaptations will be made to the Regulations concerned.

'The UEFA Emergency Panel is deeply concerned that AC Milan has created the impression of being involved in the improper influencing of the regular course of matches in the Italian football championship.''

UEFA added: 'From the statement of AC Milan, the Panel concluded that 'the club has obviously not yet properly perceived the troubles it is in and the damage it already caused to European football.

'UEFA and the club's opponents will observe with the utmost attention the future attitude of AC Milan around UEFA club competition fixtures.

'UEFA will not hesitate to intervene severely, should AC Milan be involved in any activities aiming to arrange improperly the outcome of a match.''

Milan lawyer Leandro Cantamessa was quoted by Gazzetta dello Sport as saying: 'There were no alternatives. We are innocent and things could not have gone differently.

'Being in this situation has taken away some of our calmness, but now everyone can concentrate on the European event.'

Italy will have four teams in the competition with Inter Milan and AS Roma entering at the group stage and Chievo Verona and AC Milan entering at the third qualifying round.