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August 2021

Arsenal has won the PL fair play league last season. But PL not happy with it?

By Walter Broeckx

Between reviewing games, writing articles, looking for data I had the idea of writing about the  Premier league fair play league table.

I did feel a bit proud when I first saw it.  Because Arsenal was the fairest team of the league in the last season. As I am a ref myself and I think good behaviour is important on a football field I felt proud about Arsenal being the best team in that regards.

So now I would love to enter a link to it and then you could see it with your own eyes.  But there is a small problem with that. Because this is the link and if you click on to it you will see a lot of zero’s.  Arsenal is still standing first but that is only because we are also alphabetical the first team in the PL. But I can assure you that at the end of the season we were in first place.

Now I don’t know why the PL removed this table already. One could say that the season is over and that they empty the tables to get the new season under way. But then again the new season only starts in some 2 months time. So they could have waited till then to make it a blank league table.  And it still has the header season 2012-2013 above the table. And if they really are serious about preparing the new season then why we still are looking at the regular league table of the last season on each page? Cleaning up is fine I would say but then clean up all the tables and stats and put the old ones in the archive section.

But you can believe me on my word: Arsenal was top of the fair play league table after 38 games. And we took that title away from our dear rivals from down the road. Yes, it was the tiny totts that ended in 2nd place.  And if you do want to see it with your own eyes I can link you to the site as they were smart and copied the table in to their article.

Now I have seen a few snide remarks about this in the different social media made by Arsenal fans. They said that fair play league tables mean nothing. I beg to disagree as a ref.  Like I said it fills me with joy that our team is the team that is the best when it comes to fair play.

And another remark I could see by the ones craving for trophies was : when did a team win the fair play league table and the league at the same time? And then someone who is working on statistics went looking and he found the answer. The last time a team won the fair play league table and the league was…. Arsenal. And it happened in the unforgettable invincible season of 2003-2004.

And didn’t I get an invincible feeling all over me in that run in at the end of the season? Yes I did. In a way this team has a few of those things we have seen 10 years ago. A desire and will to not lose a game. Believe me not all the games in the invincible season were great performances. Some were poor. But we always managed to not lose the game. And still did it in a rather fair way.  So are those days coming back to us? Sure would be nice.

But it proves that you don’t have to be “unfair” to win the league. And it maybe also can be a good answer when some people come up with the “bad disciplinary record” Arsenal was having in the early Wenger years and when Vieira played for us.

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Now this league table is put together by putting different aspects of the game together and give points for it. They take in account (and I copy a bit from the PL website) :

1. Red and yellow cards

This speaks for itself I think

2. Positive play

This is designed to encourage attractive play that will increase the enjoyment of spectators and the following areas are taken into consideration:


– Using attacking tactics, not defensive
– Speeding up the game
– Efforts to gain time (e.g. bringing the ball back into play quickly even if the team is in a winning position)
– Continuing to push for goals when in a winning position


– Slowing down the game
– Time wasting
– Tactics based on foul play
– Play-acting (simulation)

3. Respect towards opponents

Players should respect the Laws of the Game and abide by the spirit of Fair Play. The Fair Play delegate’s assessment will not double count items already covered in the ‘Red and Yellow cards’ category, but the seriousness of the offences punished by cards may be considered. This category will also include offences overlooked by the referee.

Any single major incident between players may have a significant bearing on the final score.

4. Respect towards the referee

Players are expected to respect the officials – including assistants – at all times.

The Fair Play delegate’s assessment will not double count items already covered in the ‘Red and Yellow cards’ but the seriousness of the offences punished by cards may be considered

Any single major incident may have a significant bearing on the score.

5. Behaviour of the team officials

Team officials, including coaches, are expected to develop the sporting, technical and tactical level of their team – and instruct players to behave in accordance with the Fair Play principles.

Positive and negative aspects of the team officials’ conduct will be assessed – such as whether they calm down or provoke angry players or fans and how they accept the decisions of the referee. Co-operation with the media will also be taken into account.

Any single major incident may have a significant bearing on the final mark, as will breaches of the regulations governing the dugout and technical area.

6. Behaviour of the public

All teams begin with a score of 5 points. A maximum of a further 5 points can be added for:

– Verbal support in acceptable form
– Covert recognition of outstanding play by the opponents

A maximum of 5 points can be deducted for:

– Persistent foul and abusive language
– Persistent abuse of the officials’ decisions
– Aggressive and threatening conduct towards opposing fans


So in a way this is also a little trophy (£30.000 price money to give towards community or youth projects) of us fans. A trophy of the players, the supporters and managers together.  So I feel proud about it. Now to find out why did the PL remove this table from their website that quickly?


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20 comments to Arsenal has won the PL fair play league last season. But PL not happy with it?

  • John

    All the more impressive, considering the well-documented bias of certain referees, resulting in more yellow and red cards than were justified.

  • Man Overboard

    I hear the club are planning an open top bus parade through Avenell to show the fans the Fair Play Trophy!

  • Man Overboard

    I hear the club are planning an open top bus parade through Avenell Road to show the fans the Fair Play Trophy!

  • ClockEndRider

    I am now waiting for the Daily Fail to produce a piece in some way criticising us for coming top in this.
    Shouldn’t be long now……

  • Ben L

    anyone surprised Stoke came last?

    Also we people at the PL deleted all data yesterday according to the date of last modification on that page.

  • Ben L

    sorry the not we, eating sandwich and typing at the same time!;)

  • yassin


    U dont have to wait, just read the comment above yours….

  • ClockEndRider

    You’re right. There’s always one……

  • mystic

    I wonder if the board are getting things mixed up, FFP : FPT and thinking that Arsene is truly being successful.

  • FunGunner

    It wasn’t funny first time around, Man Overboard.

    @ Walter
    I’m proud, too.
    But it proves that you don’t have to be “unfair” to win the league.

    This makes me think of my mentor and role model, when I was starting in my career. He was among the top people in his profession and his example showed me that you can be ferociously ambitious and successful and still treat other people with respect and consideration. Being a decent human being and a successful human being are not mutually exclusive.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Congratulations to Arsenal, and for that matter , the Spuds who ran us close on this. I also believe Stoke finished anchored to the bottom. I am sure Mark Hughes really is going to change this! Lets hope the refs start giving teams such as Stoke a lot more of what they deserve instead of some who have turned a blind eye to their antics.

  • Shard

    Spurs must have been a really clean team if they came second despite the 6 yellows for Bale for diving.

    I don’t really care about the Fair Play Table. I don’t need that table to tell me that Arsenal largely play fair. We barely dive, and we almost never go in dangerously on tackles. That must be down to the manager obviously. I also don’t need the actual league table to tell me who are worthy of being champions and who aren’t.

    This past season. I must say that the refs took a step back from attacking Arsenal, at least in the big calls. Whether that is down to the team becoming wiser to their tricks and hence adapting, or down to a shift in the referees’ stance and biases, or on account of how much attention their antics have gathered, who knows? Probably to some extent a combination of all these.

    Anyway. Good on Arsenal for playing fair and finishing top of the Fair play table. But we play fair anyway. And are generally loathed, and punished for it. Hopefully times they are a changing

  • John

    Slightly off topic, but in relation to comparison with Spurs, it is once again reassuring to hear that Harry Redknapp has announced that Spurs will overtake us next season. (I’m sure I’ve heard that prediction every year for the last 16 seasons).

  • Pat

    The last time a team won the fair play league and the league it was Arsenal.

    Makes you proud of your team.

  • Stuart

    You will be happy to know the Premier League have changed the table to show next seasons date. Maybe they read your article.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Wish Ivan could get inside and sort out the PGMOL as well as the PGB.
    He is becoming a very powerful man, clearly a smart operator and someone good to have on our side. He may lack the world stops at Arsenal attitude that DD had but I am sure he will work for the overall good of the game.

  • bob

    Kudos on the Fairplay. As for the diminution of refshite, well, the Webbster show he sill has venom. And my guess is we’d have seen a lot more of it if there were big decisions to have been called against us: that is, my guess is that the somewhat better treatment had little to do with Gazidis insider standing (which in fairness Mandy, you, in fact, were several times beseeching him to finally use his position to do something about the quality of reffing during the season) and something – if not a lot to do with – the fact that we were out of top honors running by January and the Rednose XX was unassailable. It’s all guesswork until we see whether we actually can mount a challenge for top honors, and then we’ll know if the worm has turned. (The worm being that slug known as Mickey R, and the slugfest (post-Fergus) being over.)

  • WalterBroeckx

    I’ve seen it also Adam. I like the guys who run the site. Have known them from twitter and are very nice chaps.