In the wake of the now postponed north London derby, which was awarded to the Premier League after Arsenal resumed due to a lack of players from injury, a lack of suspension and (kinda) COVID-19, Tottenham released a statement on their website. The club stated that it was “extremely surprised” by the decision to postpone the match because Arsenal had only one case of the Covid virus, and indicated that the league’s decision would have “unintended consequences”.
We are very surprised that this app was approved.
We ourselves were excluded from the European Conference League after a slew of COVID cases meant we needed to reschedule a match and our request to move a Leicester match was not approved – only to be postponed later when Leicester applied.
The directive’s original intent – here – was to deal with the availability of players directly affected by COVID cases, resulting in teams being exhausted which, when combined with injuries, would result in the club not being able to put together a squad.
We don’t believe it was intended to deal with non-COVID player availability.
We may now be seeing the unintended consequences of this rule.
It is important to have clarity and consistency in applying the rule.
– Excerpts from Tottenham Hotspur’s statement
Arsenal are generally accused of taking advantage of a major loophole in the Premier League’s guidelines for coronavirus-related delays. Some call it “cheating,” while others call it a violation of the spirit of the rule. But first, what does the Premier League stream actually say? This is the appropriate section.
The most important part is the first point:
1) the impact of COVID-19 infection on the club team, As well as injuries, illness and isolation, The number of players on the team roster and players under the age of 21 with relevant experience. When the club is unable to bring in 13 off-field players and a goalkeeper either from the team’s roster or its appropriately experienced under-21 players, the match will be postponed.
Arsenal had 12 players off the field as of yesterday – three players (Cedric Soares, Bucayo Saka and Callum Chambers) missed due to injury, one player (Granit Xhaka) suspended, and four players (Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe). ) are away at the Africa Cup of Nations finals, and two players who left last week on loan. They also have one positive test for COVID-19 – Martin Odegaard (although the second player has tested positive as of Saturday morning).
The argument Spurs makes here is that Arsenal have appealed to Premier League law, but not the spirit. This, according to the club, was not what the Premier League meant when they applied these guidelines – they were clearly put in place with the goal of giving clubs with actual COVID outbreaks a chance to defer, not clubs with minimal or no COVID outbreaks, Rather, a large group of injuries and absences. The guidelines don’t specifically address loans and other absences, but the ruling sets a clear precedent that they will be considered as long as the number of first-team players falls below the 13 off-field threshold.
This is the ‘unexpected outcome’ that Tottenham are talking about based on the Premier League ruling – it opens the door for other clubs with injuries or players out for other reasons to be postponed if they don’t have the team they want available. It’s a loophole big enough to drive a semi-truck through.
The Premier League let them get away with it.
Now look – unlike most Spurs fans today, I’m in the “I’m not crazy, that’s really funny to me” camp regarding this issue. I tend to think that all clubs, including my own, would try to get away with absolutely what they could do, no more, no less, and that any team in Arsenal’s situation would have tried to postpone the match according to these guidelines. Arsenal have not technically broken any rules – they have exploited a loophole caused by poorly considered COVID guidelines. It’s also not clear to me whether Spurs really have the advantage of playing Arsenal today, given Spurs’ absences and injuries.
But it is Spurs (and Spurs fans) to be angry here. It is true that they ended up being eliminated from the European Conference League because the Premier League (Wren, to be fair) were not prepared to be flexible when Spurs were dealing with the coronavirus outbreak in their training ground. Leeds United also had to play a game with just nine first-team players (against Arsenal at least!) in mid-December during their coronavirus outbreak, a match that ended in an easy win for Arsenal. It is unbelievable that two years into a global pandemic, the Premier League has not been able to establish clear and consistent rules for how and when matches will be played in the midst of COVID-19. That’s too much at the top of the Premier League and they should be vilified for it.
There’s really nothing to be done – the league has made up its mind. However, I suspect the Premier League has seen the writing on the wall and will eventually “clarify” its guidance for future postponements in order to prevent a host of nominally COVID related postponements in the future. Which again means, common sense comes into play in the Premier League…but only after Spurs got their hands on the worst of the deal.