The latest on potential Premier League rule changes following Arsenal and Tottenham controversy
Arsenal vs Tottenham the 21st Postponed Premier League game
In theory, Arsenal’s request to have the North London Derby postponed should have been a cut and shut case. The 21st postponement of a Premier League season determined to continue in the face of COVID-19, to many it felt a step too far, however.
Tottenham certainly felt so.
“The original intention of the guidance…was to deal with player availability directly affected by COVID cases, resulting in depleted squads that, when taken together with injuries, would result in the club being unable to field a team.
We do not believe it was the intent to deal with player availability unrelated to COVID.
We may now be seeing the unintended consequences of this rule.”, the club wrote in an official statement after the news broke.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 15, 2022
The fact that it was the biggest game of the weekend, combined with the single COVID-19 case that Arsenal registered (they have since registered another), saw many come out and demand that the game be played, including those on Sky Sports’ payroll.
Game off. What started out as postponements due to a pandemic has now become about clubs not having their best team . The Premier League must stop this now , draw a line in the sand and say all games go ahead unless you have an exceptional amount of CV cases . It’s wrong 👍
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) January 15, 2022
And while Neville is right in that clubs are using and abusing the rule to their advantage, it is the rules themselves, not the clubs, that have permitted it. Why wouldn’t clubs at least try?
Rules not set to change
And now, to the frustration of many, the rules do not seem about to change. Recent events, including the Liverpool Carabao Cup tie also involving Arsenal, albeit on the receiving end this time and the north London Derby have prompted calls for the rules to become more COVID-19 case focused, rather than a “cop out” for those with injuries.
However, as per the London Evening Standard:
“Despite the backlash, the Premier League currently has no immediate plans to review its rules on match postponements.
Questions around the integrity of the competition have already been asked, but it is thought these would increase even more if the rules on postponements changed during the middle of the season.”
This could mean a massive backlog of fixtures come the end of the campaign, with Burnley already five games behind the pace, and Tottenham with four games in hand on current leaders Manchester City.
Would a more stringent check make sense?