The Fair Play table means well but it doesn’t quite serve its purpose in practice. The problem is incentives— there’s not enough on offer to compel teams to be on their best behavior. Fairly recently UEFA offered a Europa League spot to teams who qualify through Fair Play schemes, which is how West Ham had their brief cameo in Europe a couple seasons back. But that’s off the table now too. So for the most part, the Fair Play scheme is a thing that’s nice if you get it but not something you’ll go out of your way for.
Of course, Liverpool are set to win the Premier League’s Fair Play award this season, which means it is absolutely the most important thing at stake heading into tomorrow.
The Reds are currently bottom of the Fair Play table with 216 disciplinary points. (In this case, being bottom is A Good Thing.) With just 54 yellow cards and no red cards, they’re four points ahead of Swansea— or is it behind? this is confusing— and, if they can avoid any bookings tomorrow against Middlesbrough, they will win the league’s Fair Play award for the campaign.
The prize for winning the Fair Play award is modest— £20,000. But the club are aiming to make the most of it. Should they secure the award, Liverpool are planning to use the prize money to reduce season-ticket prices for fans between the ages of 17 and 21.
The Reds won the award two years ago and similarly passed the savings on to young fans in the form of ticket discounts. Following a meeting between fans and club representatives, Liverpool will repeat the gesture and, in so doing, catch some potential lifelong fans when they’re young.
Some 270 young fans would benefit from the subsidy, which would knock about £75 off the cost of their season tickets.
Ticket prices continue to be a hot-button issue among Liverpool fans, and the Fair Play gesture obviously won’t solve this complicated issue. But it’s not nothing, either. And it potentially sends a signal that the club are willing to reach out and find some equitable solutions with supporters.