Despite struggling to finish in the Premier League’s top 10 this season, Everton could still find them in Europe next year through the curious route of the Fair Play League.
UEFA have confirmed that England, the Netherlands and Republic of Ireland will be awarded a place in the first qualifying round of the 2015/16 Europa League after finishing top of their "Respect Fair Play League".
The standings are calculated not just by the number of yellow and red cards accrued, but also criteria such as respect towards opponents, officials and the behaviour of their own staff.
Liverpool are currently top of the Premier League’s Fair Play standings but look likely to qualify for Europe through their league position given they are currently in fifth place.
That would mean the team in second place being awarded a European spot – currently West Ham. Sam Allardyce’s side currently have a fair play score of 281.25 but Everton are right behind them on 278.25.
Therefore, the Toffees are just a few West Ham red cards away from returning to continental competition once more.
The huge caveat though is the fact Everton would be entered at the first round stage, which takes place at the end of July. Starting the season so early would be hugely disruptive, even if the opponents are likely to be ones they should beat.
Even if they did reach the group stages once more plenty of Evertonians are concerned at the negative impact playing in Europe has had on the team this season. They would prefer a clear run next year, allowing the time the time and space to focus on a top four challenge.
Others, though, feel Europe is vital for the team’s development and that playing midweek games is important experience should ever want to be a success in the Champions League – should we ever qualify.
It has already caused plenty of debate on Twitter, with some opinions from both sides posted below. What do you think? Have your say in the comments below, vote in our poll and/or send us a Tweet @RBMersey.
@RBMersey yes....get some competitive 1st team experience for some....a decent competitive pre season!!!— Richard Boyle (@boyley81) May 8, 2015
@RBMersey fingers crossed we get few yellows over next few games come on Barry get us a red card as well— chris anderson (@chrisando1985) May 8, 2015
@RBMersey No. Just no.— Billy Gordon (@A_Billi) May 8, 2015
Nooooooooooooo !!!!! https://t.co/745elKtQWO— Caveo #EFC (@Captin__Caveman) May 8, 2015
@RBMersey just like last year, Europa League isn't worth the damage— DS (@DMSAU09) May 8, 2015