For finishing 2nd in the UEFA Respect Fair Play standings, England, along with the Netherlands and Ireland, has been granted an additional UEFA Europa League spot for the 2015-16 season. This means that there will be eight English teams total in European competition. Four will be placed in the UEFA Champions League and four in the UEFA Europa League.
How is this Fair Play spot determined?
The EPL Fair Play Table is determined by awarding or taking away points from things like red and yellow cards, “positive play” (not time wasting, not diving, speeding up the game), showing respect toward opponents, referees, behavior of team officials and fan behavior.
So, who gets this 8th spot?
This spot is given in a different fashion. Usually in English soccer, the top four are given Champions League spots while 5th and possibly 6th and 7th are given Europa League spots depending on if the FA Cup winner and/or Capital One Cup winner finishes in the top five. This spot won’t automatically be given to the team finishing 8th in the EPL table. This spot is given to the team who finishes highest in the EPL Fair Play Table who doesn’t have a European place.
This year, after 36 of 38 games, Liverpool is leading the EPL Fair Play Table and are going for two Fair Play Awards in consecutive years. Since Liverpool is well on their way to 5th place and earning a Europa League spot that way, current 10th place EPL team West Ham United is 2nd in the Fair Play Table and are in line to earn the Europa League spot. Everton is just behind in 3rd and after Manchester City in 4th, relegation side Burnley is 5th so it’s very likely either West Ham, Everton or Burnley will be getting a Europa League spot.
Do these teams want to be in Europa?
I don’t know how excited these three teams are in terms of getting into the Europa League but I imagine they all have varying interest. Everton has been through a tough year of Europa League resulting in dangerously getting close to a relegation battle due to a lack of depth for all competitions that I’m sure Roberto Martinez wouldn’t be thrilled with getting back into the Europa League. Burnley is going to want to focus on getting back into the EPL because they know they have no chance at winning the Europa League and promoting to the EPL is way more financially lucrative.
West Ham would be the only team I would think that would be fine with being in the competition. West Ham isn’t going to be fighting for a top four spot and is an outside threat for the other Europa spots. They are also solid enough that they shouldn’t be in danger of relegating (unless they go full Newcastle) so they may go for it. It all depends on who they get as manager next season.
As the European spots have almost all already been claimed two weeks from the end of the season, the final day of the EPL season is likely going to lose a bit of drama when compared to recent years. This is a small intriguing aspect to watch going into the final two weeks of the EPL season.