Soccer

Premier League in a mess over Covid postponements amid Tottenham fury

When Tottenham Hotspur learned that their match against Arsenal was off, there was “fury” within the club. That comes across in a strong statement, of which the stand-out line is this: “We may now be seeing the unintended consequences of this rule.”

Many will be furiously nodding their head. The argument being made around much of the game is that this is “a mess”.

There is some irony to the fact that the announcement of the postponement was delayed so as not to distract from another televised game, just as that match was pretty much finishing the title race.

It wasn’t a great day for the Premier League in that regard. The destination of the trophy was decided as early as mid-January, undercutting all the overbearing claims of unpredictability. The weekend’s marquee game was suspended, despite Arsenal only suffering one Covid case at the time – although a second has since been reported.

If you consider how desperate the Premier League were to keep the Christmas schedule going, because of the audience advantage it gave them over every other major European league, this really was the last thing they wanted. The show couldn’t go on.

That is also why it should be appreciated that there is some logic to this.

That will no doubt be an unpopular view given that the anger goes beyond Spurs, and everyone has a take, demanding blood, but it is one where it should be possible to see all sides.

The first thing to say is that all sides came together to vote on this. The clubs are only subject to the rules and protocols they themselves agreed, and subsequently adapted for the spread of Omicron.

While it has been mooted in some quarters that they should have another vote to change the rules, that simply isn’t going to happen mid-season. It would mean one part of the campaign is played under different conditions to another. It is described as a “non-starter” that would create “integrity issues”.

That points to how this entire issue is about much more than any single game being suspended.

You can of course question why the Premier League is so shareholder-led, leading to an inherent lack of “leadership”. There have been more than a few occasions over the past two years where it has felt like it could do with an American-style public-facing “commissioner”.

You can also question some of the conditions and phrasing of the rules, and it is certainly easy to understand Tottenham’s position.