WACCOE

Leeds United were beaten in the 1973 European Cup Winners Cup final by Italian Giants AC Milan.  To this day Leeds fans believe they should have been Champions of Europe, 36 years later former MEP Richard Corbett  challenged UEFA’s decision, he was kind enough to answer a few questions.

Fans across the country always ask why Leeds fans believe this so strongly. You can guarantee that at every game the Leeds fans will always break into unison scarf held high above their head singing we are Champions, Champions of Europe which they will repeat and repeat.

Leeds had previously triumphed twice in Europe 1967/68 and 1970/71 Intercity fairs cup (UEFA Cup). But we also believe and rightly so that the 1973 European Cup Winners’ Cup final in Salonika Greece should be listed in our club honours list. Although it won’t show on any official honours list Leeds fans believe they should be credited the controversial 1973 Cup Winners’ Cup trophy.

Leeds had qualified for the European Cup Winners Cup by beating Arsenal in the 1972 F.A Cup final.Leeds just missed out on the European cup after finishing second in the old First Division by a point off eventual Champions Brian Clough’s Derby County.

Leeds were drawn some tough fixtures throughout the competition playing teams over two legs. Leeds began the competition when they were drawn against Turkish side MKE Ankaragücü. Leeds scrapped through 2-1 on aggregate. Leeds where then drawn against East German team FC Carl Zeiss Jena. Leeds triumphed with a 2-0 aggregate victory and then set up a quarter-final tie against Romanian champions Rapid Bucureşti.

Leeds were impressive beating the Romanians 5-0  at Elland road, Leeds eventually won the tie 8-1 on aggregate over both ties.  Sparta Prague awaited Leeds in the semi finals the first leg at Elland road. Cup hero Alan Clarke scored a 21 minute goal to put Leeds in front. The whites held on and won the tie 1-0. Leeds travelled to Prague 2 weeks later and played out a solid defensive display holding the hosts to 0-0 draw. They had breezed to the Final where a glamorous tie against AC Milan awaited “The Mighty Whites.”

16th May 1973 Kaftanzoglio Stadium, European Cup Winners Cup final. The game from the start was rifed with controversy; Milan took a 4 minute lead when striker Luciano Chiarugi scored direct from an indirect free kick. Leeds protests fell on deaf ears with referee Christos Michas.

As the game went on Michas continued to ignore obvious fouls against Leeds players and denied clear penalty decisions. Michas showed Norman Hunter a straight red card after an altercation with a Milan player who walked away from the incident with no punishment. Milan held on and won the game 1-0 Leeds felt robbed and deservedly had a case.

Milan players and officials couldn’t complete their lap of honour as the home Greek fans shouted “Ντροπή”(Shame) and halted the players  and officials with a barrage of missiles from the stands. (Highlights of the game can be viewed here.)

Immediately After the game Michas was banned by his own Football association and banned by UEFA from referring any international fixtures on allegations that he took bribes from AC Milan officials.

Leeds United pleas to replay the final fell on deaf ears and UEFA President at the time theItalian Artemio Franchi wouldn’t agree to this. Milan kept the cup.

If Lyon was to win this season’s Champions League and was then found to have bribed the officials, Then UEFA President Michele Platini rubbished the pleas of the losing team and refuses a replay of the game. It’s hard to try to justify that isn’t it? Could all this come down to the fact the UEFA President in that year was Italian and was he protecting his own nation, reputation and his Italian club…

March 2009 Yorkshire and the Humber MEP Richard Corbett began a campaign to award Leeds United the Cup Winners Cup 1973 medals and to persuade UEFA to overturn the result.Mr Corbett began his campaign by gathering 12,200 signatures through an online petition and presented it to UEFA delegates.

Mr Corbett’s then travelled to Geneva to UEFA HQ to put pressure on the European Governing body, His efforts to overturn the result became national news. Right in the Gary Kelly’s has secured its first interview and I’m pleased to announce Former MEP Richard Corbett has agreed to share his experience in this injustice.

After 33 years after the result what prompted you to take action with UEFA in attempting to overturn the result?

First, I still remember watching the game as a teenager and how outraged I was. Second, I had been a member of the Independent Review of European Football set up by UEFA and the EU five years ago, which made a number of recommendations (mostly ignored),  but where I came to the view that the integrity of the game requires setting aside clearly fraudulent results, even many years later. It’s never too late to right a wrong! Third, several Italian teams, including AC Milan, had been (lightly) punished in 2006 for nobbling referees, which brought the whole issue to the fore again.

 What were your thoughts on the result?

A major injustice.

When you visited UEFA HQ what was your reaction on how UEFA responded?

UEFA officials were actually very sympathetic – and impressed by the number of signatures so many years later.  I got the feeling that, if it were not for legal constraints, they would have relished the possibility to take action.

If this was to happen in modern-day football how do you think the footballing world would react and what action would you expect UEFA to take?

Hopefully, more speedy and thorough investigations would take place, enabling sanctions to be imposed and, where appropriate, results overturned.

Were you surprised at the positive reaction of the Leeds Fans once you began the campaign to overturn the result?

I was amazed! Fantastic response – and not just from Leeds supporters: this was about justice and fair-play, which fans across football feel strongly about.!

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Reporter Matthew Mckeith