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By ESPN Staff

Johansson vows to protect four-club Champs League rule

UEFA president Lennart Johansson has pledged to maintain four English teams in the Champions League if he is re-elected for a fifth and final term of office.

Johansson, 77 next week, is standing against Michel Platini in the election on January 26.

Platini wants to limit each country to having a maximum of three teams in the Champions League but Johansson promised to maintain four teams from England, Spain and Italy.

However, Johansson accepted the income from the tournament perpetuated divisions within domestic leagues and that he was in favour of redistributing money from Europe's top club competition so even clubs who do not qualify receive some benefits.

'The five big countries in Europe give us the main part of our income so it makes sense that they benefit the most,' said Johansson.

'I am in favour of redistribution of money to other members of the league, not only the three or four at the top.

'They also contribute to the competition in that they help the top clubs be fit for the Champions League.'

Johansson also said England would be front-runners to win the right to stage the 2018 World Cup.

The Swede met Chancellor Gordon Brown and expressed his view that if England bid for 2018 there would be no repeat of the humiliation suffered when they went against Germany for the 2006 tournament.

In that campaign, England bid despite a gentleman's agreement they had had with UEFA countries not to stand against Germany.

Johansson said: 'I told Mr Brown about the gentleman's agreement for 2006, but this time most certainly there will be a positive reaction because the other big countries in Europe - Italy, Germany, France and Spain - have had it recently and you have not had it since 1966.

'I would be surprised if UEFA did not vote for England this time although they are not bound by any agreement.'

He added: 'I spoke with the Chancellor and he is very keen on the idea of it coming back to England.

'I allowed myself to inform him that the other confederations have proposed that the World Cup should go to Europe every third time.

'After Germany this year, it is going to South Africa in 2010 and then to South America in 2014.

'The next time it might be back in Europe would be 2018.'

FIFA insist no decision on which continent will host 2018 has yet been taken and last month Sepp Blatter talked positively about Australia being the hosts of that tournament.

Blatter however has also said he would welcome a bid from England as 'the home of football' for 2018.