Tottenham Hotspur’s extreme fixture congestion has just eased a bit. A UEFA appeals panel has ruled that Tottenham must forfeit their final UEFA Conference League group stage match against Rennes that was postponed due to a COVID outbreak within Spurs’ squad. That decision, which goes in the books as a 3-0 Rennes win, means that Spurs have been bounced out of the competition in the group stage, with the French club and Dutch side Vitesse advancing to the next round of the competition.
Uefa confirm 3-0 win for Rennes after game at Spurs called off because of Covid positives within Tottenham squad.— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) December 20, 2021
Spurs forfeit game, according to UEFA rules. pic.twitter.com/jexEU4v0t9
There are going to be some who are annoyed by this decision and Tottenham’s exit from the competition, especially due to the context. After all, this is a trophy, a thing Spurs haven’t won in a while, and trophies are neat. I am not one of them. While I was one of the few people waving the Conference League banner ahead of time — think of all the cool small teams we’ll get to learn about in this tournament, how neat! — the way this season has shaken out means that Spurs have more games than they can realistically fit into their schedule, even playing two matches a week. The embarrassing loss at Mura means that they’d have to win a two-legged tie against Rapid Wien to even get to the Round of 16. And with three Premier League matches postponed and likely more to come in the future, this competition is no longer tenable.
Not to mention, the prestige level of this tournament was such that even if Spurs were to win it it doesn’t really do much for where they wanted to get to in the future. Antonio Conte has his eyes set much higher than winning a third tier European competition and winning [checks notes] a free trip to the Europa League next season.
I think Spurs were probably engaged in a bit of kayfabe surrounding their attempts to reschedule the Rennes match, even going so far as to offer to play the match in France. I think Spurs probably thought if they went through the motions of trying to reschedule, UEFA might not crack down as hard. Rennes weren’t having it, pushing for Spurs to forfeit despite there not being that much in it for them.
In the end, Rennes got what they want, and Tottenham probably did too — it remains to be seen however whether Spurs will face any further financial sanctions or other penalties for not playing the match. You’d like to think not, especially considering [waves at global pandemic] but this is UEFA we’re talking about here.
Farewell, Europa Conference League. We hardly knew ye. Hopefully we won’t in the future, either.