West Ham United fans woke up to the welcome surprise that they will be participating in next season’s Europa League tournament because of their strict adherence to Fair Play.
BY STEVE NJUGUNA
West Ham United announced on Tuesday that it would participate in Europe’s second continental club cup competition namely ,the Europa League despite only managing to finish 13th in the recently concluded English Premier League season. The Hammers were awarded this opportunity for being second in the English Premier League’s fair play league after Liverpool who have already qualified for the tournament so the slot was given to West Ham. The European football governing body announced earlier in the season that England, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands would all get an extra Europa League slot on fair play grounds.
In a joint statement, co-chairman David Sullivan and David Gold welcomed the news and were excited on competing amongst Europe’s elite this season as they also touched on the fact that this was West Ham’s last season at their home stadium known as the Boleyn Ground or Upton Park as from next season they shall move to London’s Olympic Stadium, famous for hosting the 2012 London Olympics.
“We are delighted to have won a place in the UEFA Europa League as we want to ensure the Boleyn Ground the best send-off possible and progress in this competition will certainly help with that. Starting in early July will bring its challenges, but everyone at the Club, from the Board to the players and supporters will be relishing the opportunity to feature on the European stage. It should be a fantastic experience,” the statement read.
West Ham recently made headlines when they sacked coach Sam Allardyce, ’Big Sam’ after a run of poor results and many coaches across Europe have been linked with the job including former Chelsea coach Roberto Di Matteo and highly regarded Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic among others. It remains to be seen who the club board will choose to lead the club into the Europa League.
West Ham will have to negotiate through three rounds of fixtures before getting to the playoffs which will determine whether they would get a slot in the group stages. West Ham last qualified for the Europa League in the 2006/2007 season after being runners up in the FA cup final. They were knocked out in the first round stage.