What are the “Right Means” to get into the Europa League?

Brendan Rodgers doesn’t want to play in the Europa League if Liverpool qualifies through the UEFA Respect Fair Play rankings.

By Bill Farnham

“I want to get [to the Europa League] through the right means, through our performance level, and if we have to have a year where we are not in Europe it is going to give us an opportunity to push on.”

Brendan Rodgers, in reference to potential qualification for the Europa League in 2014 through the UEFA Respect Fair Play rankings, as reported in the Guardian May 1, 2013.

There are lots of potential responses to this statement from Brendan Rodgers, however I’d like to offer perhaps the simplest one as a starting point: Rodgers is dead wrong.

After all the negative publicity related to Luis Suarez’s antics on the field this season and last, Liverpool should be doing everything it can, as a club (and, however much I don’t like to admit it, as a brand), to promote association with sportsmanship and fair play. Surely a chance to play in Europe based solely on the club’s on field sportsmanship and good conduct is a means to achieve that end. What sort of message would a refusal to play in the Europa League on this basis send? The obvious implication would be that Liverpool doesn’t value fair play, an absurd statement, but what other interpretation can I take from Rodgers’ words? He is unequivocally stating that the Respect Fair Play route is not the “right means” to get into Europe.

Furthermore, the minimum expectation for Liverpool this year and every year, should be European qualification of one sort or another. A year without European football should be an anathema to all Liverpool fans. If Liverpool is going to continue to claim that the club has Champions League aspirations, what justification is there for not accepting a chance to play in Europe? Whatever strains playing the Europa League puts on the team are more than outweighed by the exposure it will get across Europe. I agree that there are many practical reasons why a spot in the Europa League is not ideal. The season is extended significantly, there is a conflict with the preseason tour schedule, increased player fatigue and the potential negative league performance impact are all reasons that spring readily to mind. Participation in the Europa League will certainly bring with it a resource drain on the club financially and physically on the players, however it represents a chance to compete for a trophy and an opportunity to demonstrate the true character and values embodied by Liverpool to a broad European audience, opportunities that as a fan, I value far more than preseason tour revenue or the oft-repeated promise that next year Liverpool will challenge for the a spot in the top four.

There must be some reason why Rodgers doesn’t fancy the Europa League. Perhaps he is worried that the squad is too thin or that it is one competition too many for the club as they enter a critical (how many critical seasons have there been in the last three years?) season with expectations weighing heavily on his mind. Perhaps, but at the end of the day his job is to manage to the circumstances of the club, whether they are ideal or otherwise, and it is the job of the players to play matches and try to the best of their abilities. Refusing an invitation to play in the Europa League for any reason would be an abdication of his responsibilities as a manager and clearly against the spirit of Liverpool Football Club. If he doesn’t think he can manage playing in the Premier League and Europa League next season how does he intend to manage playing in the Premier League and the Champions League should he ever get the chance?

Note: Respect Fair Play Qualification Criteria included below, emphasis added.

“As defined in the club competition regulations, the three extra places in the UEFA Europa League will go automatically to the three best-placed national associations in the Respect Fair Play standings, provided they attained an average of 8.0 points or more. The Respect Fair Play assessments are made by the official UEFA delegates, based on criteria such as positive play, respect for the opponent, respect for the referee, behaviour of the crowd and team officials, as well as cautions and dismissals.

Each of the three associations allocated an additional place in the first qualifying round of the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League will be entitled to enter the club that wins its domestic top-division fair play competition. If this club has already qualified for a UEFA competition, the second-placed team in the domestic fair play table may be entered, and so on. It is even possible for a side that has been relegated to the second highest division to qualify for the UEFA Europa League as a result of exemplary conduct during the domestic championship.

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5 thoughts on “What are the “Right Means” to get into the Europa League?

  1. give the Europa league a miss and we will have a chance of a top 4 finish next season, we dont have a squad that can handle the amount of games you play in that competition and still do well in the prem, too many games/too much travelling costs league points and we should be focusing 100% on getting back in the champions league

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    • If LFC doesn’t have a deep enough squad to play in both the Europa League and the EPL, what are they going to do if they manage to qualify for the CL? Rodgers needs more experience managing a team in the EPL and Europe, and this is one way to get it.

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  2. I think Rodgers can be a great manager, but he has to start thinking before speaking. I don’t necessarily agree with what he says, but he has to realise he is the figure head of the club. This, to me has been an issue before the start of the season. He started out ok, saying this was going to be a building year; then as we started to play some great football and started to get results he went back on that and said Champions League football was our aim. Most fans thought it but, to me there is no need for him to say it. If we had achieved Champions League football, then fine, but if we ended finishing where we have, nobody can go back and say you said we would make the CL.

    This to me is another pointless speech from him. When he said it, and I assume is still the case, England was fourth in the list of countries where the top three get in via fair play. Liverpool were the highest team not yet in Europe, but there were still games to be played. There is so much that has to change, and yet more that could change from when he spoke to when the decision happens that to me he’s just said something that should have been left unspoken. He’s potentially opened up a can of worms. If nothing changes, Liverpool still won’t get in via fair play, so it just leaves a portion of fans discussing whether he is right to reject Europe. However, if somehow things change and Liverpool do get that fairplay spot, what happens if the owners say “we’re going to do the EL no matter what you think.” Now the club becomes a laughing stock, because they’ll say our manager has no idea, and/or our club is a small club that needs the Fair Play League to get into Europe.

    That to me is the biggest issue. We can all debate whether being in the EL is a good or bad thing. I personally like the idea of being in Europe and using it solely to give the fringe players a part, but I think it should remain that way all the way regardless of how far we get. Last season we started out well enough, but then as we progressed or as we needed results we ended up using more and more of our first team. Then we still went out. It was a lose lose situation. We were deemed to be rubbish because we went out, and had used our first team regulars. Had we just stuck to the youth players, and those not getting a regular game (even if we went out earlier than we did) people would have seen it for what it was, a chance to give the youth some experience against bigger clubs.

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  3. “There are lots of potential responses to this statement from Brendan Rodgers, however I’d like to offer perhaps the simplest one as a starting point: Rodgers is dead wrong.”

    I am 100% in agreement. No need to say anymore, so I won’t !

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