This is how the Fair Play table looked at the end of the 08/09 season (click to enlarge). It’s judged on the following criteria:
R/Y = Red/Yellow cards (three pts for a red, one for a yellow), max. of 10 pts per match
P/P = Positive Play, max. 10 pts per match
R/O = Respect Towards Opponent, max. seven pts per match
R/R = Respect Towards Referee, max. seven pts per match
B/O = Behaviour of Officials, max. six pts per match
Points are awarded based on reports made by Prem referees’ assessors, who attend each match.
So what does the table tell us? A few conclusions below…
1. Arsenal finished higher in this league than in the real one. It’s a minor moral triumph, and probably of very little comfort to either Arsene Wenger or the club’s fans. But the Gooners’ fair play position lends credence to Wenger’s claim that his team tries to play football, while other, less talented teams (see the Fair Play relegation zone) are nothing but nasty bullies.
2. What a surprise to see teams managed by Big Sam Allardyce and Phil Brown at the wrong end of the table. Both managers place an ugly emphasis on brawn over brains.
3. You could make a link between a lack of fair play and success. The relegated teams finished 10th (Boro), 16th (WBA) and 18th (Newcastle). And overall, the table doesn’t look so different from the actual Prem table.
4. Nice guys do finish first. “Gentleman” Roy Hodgson won a special Premier League Spirit Award, in recognition of the manner in which he has conducted himself over the course of the season. This ethos translated to his team, as Fulham topped the Fair Play table. Well done to all at the club. One of the season’s true success stories.
5. As Roy’s successes prove, you don’t have to play dirty to do well in the Prem (though a billionaire owner does also help). The Big Four finished 2nd (Chelsea), 3rd (Arsenal), 4th (Liverpool) and 7th (Man Utd).