Fair Play winners West Ham set for July Europa League start

West Ham United have been confirmed as winners of the Premier League's Fair Play League and hence will qualify for next season's UEFA Europa League.

Despite finishing in 12th position in the Premier League, following Sunday's final day 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United, West Ham have been confirmed as qualifying for the Europa League via finishing top of the Fair Play League.

Going into the final round of Premier League games, co-owner David Gold had claimed the club were "99.9%" certain of winning the Fair Play League, but it has been confirmed on Tuesday. Now West Ham are charged with finding a suitable replacement for outgoing manager Sam Allardyce, who is leaving via mutual consent at the end of his current contract, and readying their Boleyn Ground home for a final league campaign that will be graced by European football.

Speaking on West Ham's official website co-owner's Gold and David Sullivan jointly stated: “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.”

Europa League qualification has proved something of a poisoned chalice in recent seasons, with West Ham's season now due to start with a first qualifying game on July 2nd, along with 104 other clubs throughout the deepest outreaches of Europe. Hence, the club's search for a manager to match their ambitions has just been accelerated by the need to start pre-season training several weeks earlier than otherwise planned.

However, with West Ham readying themselves for a final campaign at their traditional home, before they move into the refurbished Olympic Stadium for the 2016/17 season, the news of European qualification will prove a fitting send off for the famous old ground, whilst also providing a welcome boost in attracting the right type of manager for the vacant position at the Hammers.

Gold and Sullivan spoke in recent days of attracting a manager who could take the club to the "next level". This being a candidate that will be expected to understand the club, its fans and culture, and can encourage the 'West Ham way' of playing attacking football. 

While many fans, managers, players and observers have mixed feelings about the merits of the Europa League, undoubtedly, qualification for it is evidence that West Ham are preparing to take that next step. What happens next with the appointment of a new head coach, will tell us more about how serious West Ham really are.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch