Spurs out of Europe after Uefa awards Rennes 3-0 win for cancelled game


Tottenham have been knocked out of the Europa Conference League after being made to forfeit their final group phase tie at home to Rennes 3-0, despite the manager, Antonio Conte, feeling that the process has been unfair.

The game was scheduled to be played on Thursday 9 December, with Spurs most likely needing a win to finish above Vitesse Arnhem in second place and qualify for a two-leg play-off to reach the last 16.

But Spurs announced the night before that the tie would not take place owing to a Covid outbreak at the club, which had seen them temporarily close the first-team area of their training ground on the advice of the Health Security Agency. Earlier that day, Conte said eight players and five coaches had tested positive. Uefa rules say that games can be postponed if a club have fewer than 13 available senior players and no goalkeeper.

Spurs’s statement took Uefa by surprise and infuriated Rennes, who had travelled to London after being assured by their opponents that the tie would go ahead. The French club accused Spurs of acting unilaterally – without the support of Uefa – and in bad faith.

Uefa said the next morning that they were satisfied the tie could not be played and blamed a bureaucratic error for the confusion – specifically Spurs’s failure to keep them up to date in writing about the situation, which meant the governing body could not confirm the postponement on the Wednesday night.

But with anger continuing to bubble in Rennes and frustration at Spurs, attempts to reschedule the game before the Uefa cut-off date of 31 December became deadlocked.

Spurs had suggested that they play it on 16 December, which would have meant their Premier League game at Leicester being moved – a request that was denied. Ironically, that match would later be postponed because of a Covid outbreak at Leicester, with Spurs in the city and ready to play. Spurs even said that they would be willing to travel to Rennes to fulfil the fixture.

There was the suggestion that Uefa might relax its deadline, mindful of the crowded December programme and the French league’s winter break – allowing for the tie, perhaps, to be staged in January. That did not happen.

When Uefa announced on 11 December that the clubs had failed to find a date and it had referred the matter to its control, ethics and disciplinary body, the likelihood was that Spurs would be made to forfeit.

The case was passed to Uefa’s appeals body which declared the tie “as forfeited by Tottenham, who is therefore deemed to have lost the match 0-3 in accordance with Annex J.3.1 to the regulations of the Uefa Europa Conference League”.

Spurs said: “We are disappointed by the ruling of the Uefa appeals body and the refusal to allow more time for the match to be rescheduled. We have to accept this ruling, however, and our focus now turns to the competitions we remain in.”

Conte had made his feelings plain last Wednesday. “Tottenham deserves to play the game,” he said. “It’s a really strange situation because we didn’t play through no fault of our own but because of a big problem and because the government decided to close our training ground.

Source: The Guardian