UEFA have set a dangerous precedent by ousting Tottenham, due to a Covid-19 outbreak, from the Europa Conference League.
The UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body ruled earlier today that Tottenham have forfeited the Rennes match, with a 3-0 loss going down as the official result. It’s yet another asinine call in a long line of callous decisions. I can see ruling a forfeit in other, more conventional circumstances. But if a widespread Covid-19 outbreak doesn’t constitute grounds for clemency, nothing will.
Tottenham handled the outbreak in the only way an upstanding organization could. The impetus was on the club to control the outbreak and mitigate the chance of the virus spreading. In refusing to play against Rennes, Spurs did the right thing, which has now, to the letter of the law, been unreasonably punished by UEFA.
The reasons behind Spurs exodus from the Europa Conference League are clear. Antonio Conte’s side didn’t perform well enough to advance without UEFA’s help. And asking for UEFA’s help is like requesting a favour from Arsenal Football Club. There is no compromise, no compassion from a governing body so unwilling to land on a balanced decision.
Worst of all, UEFA has broadcasted the entirely wrong message during a tumultuous time when logic and compassion has never carried such importance. It’s not the first time UEFA has ruled in this way, with Slovan Bratislava and FC Prishtina also having to forfeit their European ties due to Covid-related implications back in 2020.
But surely, especially after Tottenham did everything to reschedule the match with Rennes, extenuating circumstances should have been taken into account. Rennes, who get to enjoy a ludicrously long 24-day winter break (Dec. 21 to Jan. 14), could have rescheduled the match, with Jan. 6 just one of a few possible dates.
Instead UEFA decided to penalize a team who has been forced to endure one of the most severe Covid-19 outbreaks since the onset of the horrific pandemic almost two years ago.
It’s an outrageous, yet all-too predictable ruling. Imagine this same scenario rears its ugly head prior to a Champions League quarterfinal. Would UEFA make the same ruling? Or would they do everything in their power to reschedule a tie that has heavy financial implications on the participants?
And would the infected team make the same morally upstanding decision and refuse to play, or would they battle on, attempting to field the few players deemed healthy enough to continue? Which, as we’re aware by now, would risk further spread of this incredibly contagious virus. Either way, UEFA has now backed itself into a corner.
Another Covid-19 related forfeit will cause widespread outrage and, with the precedent now well and truly set, any lenience will be seen as duplicitous, yet another example of UEFA doing only what benefits themselves.
Either way you slice it, UEFA yet again took the easy way out, condemning Tottenham for nothing more than becoming the latest casualty in a long line of Covid-19 victims.