Rennes publish furious statement after Tottenham cancel match ‘without UEFA approval’

In pictures: Tottenham v Norwich

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Tottenham’s UEFA Conference League opponents Rennes have been left furious after discovering last night that Spurs have cancelled Thursday’s Group G decider – despite their French opponents landing in London. The decision was made by the home side in the midst of their concerning COVID-19 outbreak which has seen eight first-team players and five members of staff test positive for the virus.

Manager Antonio Conte, whose brief 10-minute press conference was switched from in-person to virtual at Hotspur Way on Wednesday, cut an agitated and emotional figure when addressing the media.

The Italian appeared deeply concerned about the rapid spread of the virus within the Spurs camp after one player tested positive after completing yesterday’s training session, stating that they were all returning home to their families after mixing with the group.

He said: “Today another player and another member of staff are positive. Tomorrow, who? Me? Another member of staff? I want to speak about football. This is not a good thing for you, the fans and staff.

“Everyone is a bit scared, we all have families. I ask why? Why? Yesterday we trained and two positives, today we trained and after another two positives. Who is next? It’s not right, we’re going home to our families.”

Last night, Tottenham confirmed that the game ‘will not take place tomorrow” after Conte declared he had just 10 outfield players available for the clash.

Yet given the wording of the statement, it appears Spurs were prepared to make the decision off their own backs – even if it meant forfeiting the fixture.

Spurs stated: “We can confirm that our UEFA Europa Conference League Group G home fixture against Stade Rennais will not take place tomorrow (Thursday 9 December at 8pm UK) after a number of positive COVID-19 cases at the Club. Discussions are ongoing with UEFA and we shall provide a further update on this fixture in due course.

“Additionally, following discussions with the Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England) and DCMS advisers, the Club has been advised to close the First Team area of its Training Centre at this time, in the interests of the health and safety of players and staff.

“All other areas of the Training Centre remain operational.”

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Yet Ligue 1 side Rennes have now fired back after landing in England on Wednesday, claiming they received no confirmation from UEFA that the game had been postponed.

UEFA rules state matches are only placed into jeopardy – with a view to cancelling them – if Spurs have less than 13 registered players available or no goalkeepers. Tottenham can technically still scrape a team together using some of the club’s youth players.

“Following the press release published by Tottenham at 9pm, this Wednesday, Stade Rennais FC would like to clarify the following facts,” Rennes said.

“In a video conference at 7.45pm between representatives of UEFA, Tottenham and SRFC, the Spurs director of football (Fabio Paratici) announced their intention not to play the UEFA Europa Conference League game on Thursday evening.

“(This is a) unilateral decision which has not been confirmed by UEFA in any way.

“The Tottenham representative did not want to announce the number of players affected by Covid when the rule states that a match must be played as long as the team has 13 outfielders and a keeper.

“He argued for a decision by the English authorities without advancing any official document.

“As the match was not officially cancelled by UEFA, Stade Rennais FC 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 City.”

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