By Tony Attwood
Suddenly, because of problems for Tottenham, there is talk about football in general having to “come up with more plans for the fixture list. The Premier League has so far successfully evaded any major schedule disruptions since Project Restart, but what happened with Tottenham Hotspur does serve a note of warning. “
That commentary comes from the Independent – an online newspaper in the UK. At one go it sets aside the fact that Arsenal were forced to play their opening match against Brentford despite covid infecting the side, but says that Tottenham are ok simply to refuse to play their game because of covid.
However, the Independent has gone a bit off the rails with this one, since it says in its “Reading the Game” email newsletter, it seems that postponement “is likely to be the case for the fixture’s rearrangement. The governing body’s regulations state that group games usually need to be finished by 31 December, but with the French winter break starting on 22 December, that gives little space. The Independent has been told that Uefa will be “flexible” on the situation.”
Told by whom one wonders. Certainly the English media would push this line because this involves Tottenham, and for whatever reason, some of the media quite like Tottenham.
Indeed what The Independent has done is found a way to set out its review of the situation such that it would appear that if allowing Tottenham to break the rules would be in everyone’s interest as they “don’t want the precedent of games going unplayed or teams forfeiting. It is naturally seen as crucial to the integrity of the sport to actually get fixtures played.”
The newsletter continues, “There is going to be a knock-on effect, with the Brighton and Hove Albion match already postponed, and the fixture against Leicester City – who have had their own Covid issues – looking certain to follow. Leicester dropping into the Europa Conference themselves means a play-off game and another bit of time taken out of the calendar. There could be some busy weeks ahead.”
Or perhaps not, for despite all the “let’s work together to help Tottenham” approach of the Independent, a Uefa statement says, “Unfortunately, despite all efforts, a solution that could work for both clubs could not be found. As a consequence, the match can no longer be played and the matter will, therefore, be referred to the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body for a decision to be taken in accordance with Annex J of the… competition regulations.”
That Annex of Europa Conference League regulations clearly says that as Tottenham Hots were the club unable to fulfil the fixture, they will forfeit the game with Rennes awarded a 3-0 win. Tottenham H will thus be knocked out.
In one way that shouldn’t worry them much – the Europa Conference is certainly something to be avoided, and while Arsenal sauntered through the Europa League last season winning each and everyone one of their group stage matches, Tottenham have been doing poorly in this lower grade competition. Here’s the table…
According to the rule book, what the Uefa Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body has to do is determine if Tottenham had 13 available outfield players and a goalkeeper. If so, Tottenham have to be removed from the competition, unless Uefa show their colours by changing the rules in Tottenham’s favour.
They might do this if Tottenham are able to get Uefa to ignore the fact that last year Switzerland were given a 3-0 win after Ukraine refused to play a game against Switzerland because of covid.
Ukraine took the outcome to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and they ruled in favour of Uefa and Switzerland.
And of course, if Uefa ruled in Tottenham’s favour Vitesse Arnhem would then go to the Court of Arbitration in Sport and refer to their previous ruling and note how Uefa has changed its own rules in order to benefit Tottenham. The English media would not report that, of course, in keeping with their standard policy on such matters.
Nor does the media want to look back to August 2020 in which month Linfield went through in their European qualifying rounds when Kosovo didn’t play because of Covid in the Kosovan team.
Tottenham now have to play Leicester on 16 December and then have a home game against Liverpool on 19 December and the league cup game with West Ham United after that.
But of course, they might well appeal to the Premier League and then get special dispensation. And if they do, Arsenal might as well simply accept the reality. Tottenham are not like other clubs.
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