Tottenham announced on Wednesday night that the match had been postponed following several positive Covid-19 cases at the club, just hours after boss Antonio Conte said eight players and five members of staff had tested positive for coronavirus and that the outbreak has left everyone scared and worried for their families.
“We can confirm that our UEFA Europa Conference League Group G home fixture against Stade Rennais will not take place tomorrow (Thursday December 9 at 8pm UK) after a number of positive Covid-19 cases at the club,” read a Tottenham statement.
But Rennes responded furiously with their own statement, claiming Spurs refused to reveal the number of players affected by Covid-19 when competition rules state a match must be played as long as the team has 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper.
“Following the press release published by Tottenham at 9pm, this Wednesday, Stade Rennais FC would like to clarify the following facts,” the Ligue 1 club 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.”
Tottenham have said “discussions are ongoing with UEFA” over a new fixture date.
The statement added: “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.”
It remains unclear whether Spurs will ask for their Premier League match at Brighton on Sunday to be postponed, but a clearly emotional Conte admitted the situation was almost impossible.
“The problem is that every day we are having people with Covid,” Conte said at a press conference, which was held virtually rather than in person at the club’s Hotspur Way training centre.
“People that yesterday weren’t positive, today were positive and we continue to have contact with people we think are negative but the day after become positive. I think this is a serious problem.
“The worst is we don’t know and we continue to have contact with people that the day before were negative. For sure this is not a good situation.
“At the end of the training session today, again one player positive. Another member of staff is positive.
“Tomorrow, who (will it be)? Me? Another player? Another member of staff? And we continue in this way.”
Conte was supposed to be joined by Spurs’ Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg at the pre-match press conference, but instead faced the media on his own.
The Italian was asked whether their upcoming games should be called off in the wake of the outbreak.
“I think that I haven’t (got) to send a message to anyone because the situation is very clear,” Conte said.
“Every day we are having contact with the people that are false negative and become positive and then everyone is a bit scared, I think, because we all have family and why I have to take this risk?
“I think that it is not right for everyone because we have family and we have contact with them when we come back home.
“The situation is serious and it is contagious and there is a big infection and now for sure we are a bit scared because tomorrow we don’t know what happens.
“I understand also the (worry for the) players and I understand everyone that works here.”
Conte was not able to confirm whether it was the Omicron variant at the centre of the outbreak, but revealed he had been vaccinated.
Referring to vaccination take-up within his squad, he said: “I think everyone takes (their own) best decision and it is a question for the medical department about people that whether they are vaccinated or not.”
Rennes are top of Group G while Spurs are level on points with third-placed Dutch club Vitesse.
Conte had said: “Today we prepared the game against Rennes, we prepared with one player who we think we should play, then we finish training and this player was positive.
“It is very difficult to speak about football because the situation is so strange and incredible. It is very impossible.”
Given the worsening situation, Tottenham could consider asking the Premier League to call off the Brighton game.
The league works on a case-by-case basis and if a club does request a game to be postponed, it would be a Premier League board decision.