Saints on track for Europa League place

Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino

First published in Sport by

Saints are within touching distance of qualifying for Europe next season via the Fair Play League.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men are third in the latest Premier League Fair Play table, issued this week, the winner of which stands a great chance of making it into next season’s Europa League.

The competition is the second tier of European football behind the Champions League and offers the chance of high profile and lucrative fixtures.

The last time Saints played in Europe was in 2003 following their FA Cup final appearance the previous season.

European football’s governing body, UEFA, hands three nations an extra Europa League place each season for its domestic top-division fair play competition winner.

UEFA’s decision is based on its own league table of Fair Play among its member nations.

England currently sit fourth, behind Norway, Sweden and Finland, and only fractionally off of guaranteeing an extra European place which would be awarded to the winner of the Premier League’s own Fair Play League.

If England does bag the spot then Saints are in an incredible position to get the bonus European placing.

The only teams above them are table toppers Arsenal and Liverpool, and both sides would be exempt if they qualified for Europe through any other means anyway, meaning the slot would go to the next team down.

Saints have the best disciplinary record of any side in the top flight this season in terms of cards issued.

They have received just 26 bookings all season and have not picked up a red card yet.

If it were based on that alone, they would be head and shoulders above the rest with Reading the next best team having also received no red cards but five more yellows.

In contrast, the Fair Play League leaders, Arsenal, have accrued 24 bookings and three red cards.

And second placed Liverpool have an incredible 38 bookings and two sending offs to their name.

However, the league table, the latest version of which takes into account the first 24 fixtures played by each team this season, is also based on marks handed out by an assessor at each top flight game.

They also score criteria based on positive play, respect towards opponents, respect towards referees, behaviour of team officials and behaviour of the public.

Similarly, the UEFA Respect Fair Play assessments are made by the official UEFA delegates, based on very similar criteria.

Fulham were the last English team to bag a bonus European spot as they qualified via the Fair Play League for the 2011 Europa League competition.

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