Conte slams Prem over COVID postponements

Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte has said the Premier League’s scheduling is a “big mess” due to continued coronavirus postponements and laughed at suggestions the decisions have anything to do with player welfare. Spurs travel to Leicester City on Wednesday for a fixture originally due to take place on Dec. 16 before the game was called off just a few hours prior to kick-off.

That came at Leicester’s request after a coronavirus outbreak in the camp, a decision which infuriated Conte after Spurs asked a few days earlier for the game to be moved in order to fit in their Conference League tie against Rennes.

The match against Rennes was postponed due to Spurs’ own issues with the coronavirus, and UEFA subsequently insisted an alternative date had to be found by the end of 2021.

Spurs asked the Premier League to move the Leicester game as a result but that reason was deemed insufficient, causing Spurs to exit the Conference League.

Conte said in a news conference on Tuesday that he now views that verdict in a different light after last weekend’s north London derby was postponed because Arsenal had just a single coronavirus case at the time in addition to injuries, suspensions and four players away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

“I think that it is a mess now. This is the truth,” Conte said.

“There is maybe two teams that play all their games — [Manchester] City, maybe West Ham, no? The others, we played 18 games, Burnley 17 games and then they postpone again [their game] against Watford [on Tuesday].

“This is a big mess, for sure. It is very strange to put yourself in this situation with these decisions. We have found the Premier League very strict when the outbreak was happening in our training centre, and then they didn’t want to postpone the game against Leicester because before we postponed the game against Burnley [due to heavy snow].

“Then all of this [the Arsenal postponement] happened and you have to laugh because they changed totally the vision. We have to accept. We play here and for this reason, we have to accept every decision. But I think in every moment, we have to show respect for all the team, for all the players, the coaches, the people who work in football.

“If the Premier League decides to postpone games for injuries it means maybe they have to try to make a [better] schedule to reduce maybe to play games, if they don’t want injuries and if they don’t want the risk to postpone for injuries. This is the first time in my life that there is a league that postponed the game for injuries. This is very strange and I am very surprised for this.

“Tottenham was dropped off the Conference League because the Premier League didn’t want to move the game against Leicester.

“I think it was a big damage to Tottenham from Premier League. I think that you have to try to protect your team in Europe. Instead I think they [could have] penalised us in a better way.”