UCD for €200k windfall after claiming Europa League spot
UCD are set for a €200,000 windfall and a taste of European football this summer after Ireland received an extra Europa League place through UEFA’s Respect Fair Play rankings.
The students will be in June’s draw provided they meet licensing requirements despite the fact they were relegated last season.
UEFA award extra places to one team from the top three countries in their rankings and Ireland finished third in their chart behind Holland and England with West Ham currently in pole position to claim the Premier League’s spot.
The Fair Play assessments are drawn from the conduct of teams in UEFA competitions in both the club and international sphere; which means that the disciplinary record of Martin O’Neill’s Irish side and their underage counterparts counted towards the result.
In addition to the tally of yellow and red cards, UEFA delegates can also add marks under categories such as positive play, respect for the opposition, respect for the referee and the behaviour of the crowd.
UEFA decree that the FAI put forward the club that finished top of their domestic fair play chart for the additional spot. League winners Dundalk were the best behaved followed by runners-up Cork and as both those teams had qualified for European competition already, third placed UCD capitalised.
An official statement from UEFA confirmed that dropping down a level was no obstacle to accepting the bonus place: “It is even possible for a team that has been relegated to the second highest division to qualify for the UEFA Europa League as a result of its exemplary conduct during the domestic championship,” read the missive.
The recent increase in prize money guarantees the students €200,000 if they can meet the licensing requirements, and it's believed that they will apply to stage their home game at the Belfield Bowl which could still meet ground criteria. It is understood that the UCD hierarchy have considered St Patrick's Athletic's Richmond Park base as an alternative if the Belfield facilities are deemed unsuitable
It will be the third time that UCD have competed in Europe. In 1984, the FAI Cup holders famously pushed Everton all the way in a 1-0 defeat over two legs in the Cup Winners Cup - the Toffees went on to win the competition.
Meanwhile, in 2000, they exited the Intertoto Cup on the away goals rule following a 3-3 draw with Bulgarian outfit FC Velbahzd.