The Premier League’s establishment of a Fair Play League to encourage positive behaviour from clubs and fans is an admirable feature. On a subtle level it motivates teams to play as close as possible to the “spirit of the game” and embody professionalism on the team. The Fair Play League might not be an oft discussed or celebrated aspect but it nevertheless separates the clean from the mean. There are also a few incentives attached to the Fair Play rating points like the possibility of Europa League qualification regardless of the actual standings in the Premier League points table. With the League’s bulging global audience and its ever-present influence on the kids, it becomes important for the teams and players to play the game ethically and treat opposition with respect.
This year, Arsenal leads the Fair Play table and is likeliest to remain so until the season ends. While nothing substantial comes out of this distinction, it does indicate that the team has played in the right spirit throughout the season. The Premier League is renowned for its pace and physicality it is nice to know from a fan’s perspective that your club plays the game fair and with the least controversy.
The Fair Play points table also indicates that Arsenal plays with the most respect to referees among all other teams and it’s officials are the best behaved among the league. A fair assessment of Arsenal’s performances on the pitch this season will reveal that they have been involved in very few altercations on the pitch and opposing teams rarely speak out negatively against Arsenal’s players. Arsene Wenger, the much maligned and disapproved manager of the club for increasing periods of time now, has no doubt imparted football and manners into his players with equal importance.
The rankings also take into account fan behaviour during matches and the consistency of the club is a tribute to their fantastic support. Being “nice” has not taken Arsenal anywhere this season and with the club likely to pull off another great escape by narrowly beating Tottenham to the last Champions League spot, the season will end without a major victory to show for the eight consecutive season. The Fair Play League maybe a virtual trophy the club might win deservedly but that barely matters at the end of the day. I would trade this honour any day for a real trophy but ironically, not at the expense of the club turning into a bully and losing its reputation for what it embodies – great, attractive and positive football.