The match between Tottenham Hotspur and Stade Rennais tomorrow night may be off, but it looks like it isn’t the multilateral decision that everyone assumed it was. Tonight, after Tottenham announced that they were not going forth with the match due to an extensive COVID-19 outbreak within the squad, Rennes released a statement of their own that claims the decision to call the match off was Spurs’ decision alone, accused Spurs of “a lack of fair play,” and stated that they fully intend to play the match anyway.
Here’s the statement, run through Google Translate.
Following the press release published by Tottenham at 9 p.m. this Wednesday, Stade Rennais FC would like to clarify the following facts. In a video conference at 7.45 p.m. between representatives of UEFA, Tottenham and SRFC, Spurs’ director of football announced their intention not to play the UEFA Europa Conference League game Thursday evening. [This was a] unilateral decision which has not been confirmed by UEFA in any way.
The Tottenham representative did not want to announce the number of her players affected by Covid while the rule states that a game must be played as long as the team has 13 outfielders and a keeper.
She argued for a decision by the English authorities without advancing any official document. As the match was not officially canceled by UEFA, Stade Rennais FC has upheld their decision to play.
Faced with this “London fog”, the SRFC reserves the right to approach UEFA. This lack of fair play is all the more glaring as Tottenham had confirmed by email that the match would be held at the start of the afternoon before warning Rennes of their intention not to play just after their landing in London.
—Statement, Stade Rennais
The statement uses “she/her” language, presumably referring to Tottenham Executive Director Donna-Maria Cullen (although it could be a translation thing).
The statement does however explain the very carefully worded statement that Tottenham released that confirmed the match would not be played but explicitly didn’t say whether it would be rescheduled or forfeited. That statement also referenced “ongoing negotiations” with UEFA over what happens next.
It appears Spurs just decided that, with more and more players testing positive for COVID by the hour (the last check was apparently 20 total people including players, U23 players, and staff), there was no way in hell they were going to play this match regardless of what UEFA had to say about it. And frankly? They’re right. The fact that UEFA didn’t come out and call the match themselves is just ridiculous.
So sure, I can understand why Rennes might be a little miffed about it. After all, they had arrived in London today with the understanding that the match was going to go ahead as scheduled. They were probably given assurances over the past few days that, while Spurs had a couple of players out, there probably wasn’t much to worry about. That’s pretty annoying!
On the other hand, these are clearly extremely unusual circumstances in the midst of a global health crisis, and if there’s anything we’ve learned over the past two years it’s that we should be prepared to be flexible and magnanimous when it comes to COVID and sporting events. Moreover, Rennes has already clinched the group regardless of the results of this match. They could have, in theory, sent a U18 team to play in this match knowing that they’re still heading to the Conference League Round of 16 no matter what. It’s not even a home match where they lose gate revenue if the match gets cancelled.
Finally, it feels like it would also be in Rennes’ best interest to try and avoid a match against a team that is undergoing a severe COVID outbreak and that can’t guarantee that even the “healthy” players won’t test positive for coronavirus tomorrow or potentially spread it to others during the match. Common sense is you bag the match and try and find a time to reschedule it. And if you can’t, then Spurs forfeit, and Rennes gets the win and the three points anyway.
I guess I just don’t understand what Rennes gains from being colossal asshats over this. It seems pretty ridiculous to get mad at a club that doesn’t want to play a football match due to not wanting to spread a potentially deadly virus that has already sidelined about half the first team. Or to put it another way, Rennes is getting AWFULLY salty over what amounts to probably around £500k in prize money and 2.5 coefficient points.
Whatever. Rennes can get all pissy about it, but even if UEFA forces Spurs to forfeit the match, they still get what they want — an automatic bye in the knockout rounds and the top of the group. Spurs, meanwhile, will now not spread COVID to other players, fans, and match officials, and even if they get bounced from the competition it results in their already crazy match schedule loosening up a touch in early 2022.
Sounds like a win-win to me.