Antonio Conte says Premier League decision to postpone north London derby was ‘very strange’ | Football News


Antonio Conte says the Premier League’s decision to postpone Tottenham’s north London derby against Arsenal was “very strange” and called for his side to be shown “more respect”.

Spurs were due to host Arsenal in a crucial game as both sides battle for places in the top four, but it was called off on Saturday following the Gunners’ request to the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta’s side claimed they had “many players unavailable across our squad as a result of Covid, injuries and players away with their countries at AFCON (Africa Cup of Nations)”.

Spurs responded to the Premier League’s decision on Saturday by calling it “very surprising”, and Conte questioned why injuries and international call-ups were being taken into account when clubs apply for matches to be postponed.

“The club made a statement and I think the club expressed our disappointment about the decision,” said Conte. “It was for sure a strange decision.

“My feeling is that when there is a situation to play, we have to play and not postpone games for injuries or for international duty.

“We have a big problem to solve with Covid but only about this situation can you decide to postpone.

“This is the first time in my life – and I have a bit of experience in football – to see this decision. In this way, anything can happen.”

Tottenham were successful in having their game at Brighton on December 12 called off due to a Covid outbreak, and they were also forced to postpone their final Europa Conference League group match at home to Rennes three days earlier.

Spurs were subsequently unable to replay the game against Rennes, which resulted in UEFA handing their French opponents a 3-0 victory that knocked Conte’s side out of the competition.

Conte says the reason Spurs could not rearrange the match was because the Premier League refused to move their game at Leicester on December 16 – a fixture that was later moved due to Covid cases in the Foxes’ squad.

Conte said the Premier League’s decision making was “difficult to accept” and caused “big damage” to Spurs, explaining: “It’s not simple to prepare the game in every aspect, then arrive to play the game and it’s postponed for strange reasons.

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“Tottenham was dropped off the Conference League because the Premier League didn’t want to move the game against Leicester. After the request of Leicester, they postponed. But Tottenham was dropped by UEFA. This is very strange.

“In this situation there is a big disappointment for us, especially as we love football and worked a lot to try to play this competition. It’s very difficult to accept this decision.

“It was a big damage to Tottenham from the Premier League. You have to try to protect your team in Europe and they penalised us in a bad way.

“We are working and we like to do this, but I think they have to show respect for our job.”

Sky Sports News contacted the Premier League for a response to Conte’s comments and were referred to their coronavirus postponement protocols, which were agreed by the clubs last month.

What are the Premier League rules around postponements?

The 2021/22 Premier League handbook included Covid protocols and stated the Premier League’s board will “only permit the rearrangement or postponement of a league match in exceptional circumstances”.

The board make calls on a case-by-case basis, and by way of guidance the Premier League says permission for a postponement will not be granted if a club have 14 or more players from their squad list available.

However, after the postponement of a number of games in the weeks leading up to Christmas, a new Premier League guide explaining match postponement protocols was published.

And there, these factors are considered when deciding whether to postpone a top-flight game:

1) The impact of COVID-19 infections on a club’s squad, as well as injuries, illness and those isolating, and the number of players available on the squad list and any Under-21 players with appropriate experience. Where a club cannot field 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper either from its squad list or its appropriately experienced Under-21 players, the match will be postponed.

2) The status of any COVID-19 outbreak within a club, including the number of individuals affected, the sequence and source of infections and their proximity to the match in question.

3) A club’s ability to safely prepare its players in the lead-up to a match.

4) Medical advice as to whether there is any unacceptable risk to the health and safety of players and staff by playing the match.

5) Any advice from UK Health Security Agency and other public bodies.

6) Any other exceptional circumstances.

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