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- Italian association football player and manager
Tottenham are considering taking UEFA to court over their European exit, with head coach Antonio Conte suggesting “personal interests” were behind the “incredible” and “unfair” decision to throw the club out of the Europa Conference League.
Spurs are understood to be weighing up an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) after UEFA awarded Rennes a 3-0 victory for their final group match earlier this month, which was postponed following a Covid-19 outbreak at the London club.
The result meant Spurs finished third in the group – behind Rennes and runners-up Vitesse Arnhem, who will compete in a play-off to reach the knockouts – and crashed out of the inaugural competition.
The club released a statement shortly after UEFA announced the ruling on Monday morning, saying they were disappointed but accepted the decision.
For many, the news is a positive for the club, allowing Conte to focus on other fronts, but the Italian is outraged by the decision and says Spurs will appeal the ruling in court.
“Positives? No. For sure this is an incredible decision,” Conte said. “This decision is not fair. All the world knows we were facing a big problem like Covid. We didn’t play not through our fault but because we had many players with Covid and the Government decided to stop our training sessions and close our training centre.
“Honestly, for me, the club and our fans, it’s incredible the decision UEFA wanted to take. It’s unfair for sure.
“We deserve to play for qualification on the pitch, not in this way. I’m very disappointed for UEFA’s decisions. I don’t want to understand but I hope in the future, in the next step, something can change because we deserve to play for qualification on the pitch, not in this way. It’s not our fault.
“It’s not definitive,” Conte explained. “There’s another step to confirm or not this incredible decision. I’m very disappointed with UEFA because everybody knows the problem. It means maybe someone doesn’t know the problem we were having and maybe some personal interests [were involved].”
Eight of Conte’s first-team squad and five members of staff had returned positive tests before the match on December 9, which was called off with 24 hours’ notice after Spurs’ training centre was closed on advice from the Government and the Health Security Agency.
Rennes, who had already travelled to London, accused Spurs of taking a “unilateral decision” and a “lack of fair play”.
Following talks with both clubs, UEFA said the game could not be rescheduled because there was no available date to suit both teams before the December 31 deadline, despite Spurs offering to reverse the fixture and play in France.
Conte said Spurs were “very, very confident” of overturning UEFA’s ruling in court.
Asked if the next step involved going to court, he said: “Yeah, there is another step.
“UEFA took this decision but there’s another step and we’re confident that there’s another step. They take normal decision, not a decision in our favour. I repeat: it was incredible what UEFA did.
“Also, in explanation about this defeat, I have read that Tottenham couldn’t play the game for Covid cases. I dispute this. But they took this decision. We are very, very confident for the next step and I repeat we deserve to play the qualification on the pitch, not in the court. I can’t accept this. We are very, very disappointed with UEFA for this decision.”
Conte also said Tottenham players were frustrated by the decision, and described UEFA’s decision was disrespectful.
“Don’t forget the players ask me why,” he added. T”he players are very, very disappointed in this decision.
“We will fight against this decision because we want to play. We want to play the qualification on the pitch – not in the court. We have to play. If we don’t win, it’s right to go out of this competition. It’s fair. We deserve to play the qualification on the pitch.
“But now UEFA is taking a decision that I don’t like. It is lacking respect about our job. It’s not fair. We are confident that something can change in the future because the players, the fans, the club want to play the qualification on the pitch, not in the court.”