Tottenham expressed their fury at the postponement of the North London derby on Sunday, effectively accusing rivals Arsenal of abusing Premier League rules to have the game canceled for “unrelated to COVID” reasons.
And a former Gunners player has urged the club to reimburse supporters for travel and accommodation costs as thousands of supporters have seen their plans ruined.
Tottenham responded with a strong statement, after the derby crunch clash was officially called off on Saturday afternoon.
The Premier League said it granted Arsenal’s request to postpone the match, with the Gunners citing players unavailable due to COVID, injuries and absence with their country at the Africa Cup of Nations.
However, it is understood the north London club have only one confirmed case of coronavirus positive, midfielder Martin Odegaard, raising big questions over why the match was postponed.
The decision also added to recent claims that clubs are ‘abusing’ Premier League postponement rules to have games canceled with players absent through injury and AFCON absentees, not several COVID absences for which the regulations were originally designed.
And Tottenham referenced exactly that in their statement as the club’s furious Sunday game was called off.
“We are extremely surprised that this request has been approved,” read Tottenham’s lengthy statement.
“We ourselves were disqualified from the European Conference League after a significant number of COVID cases forced us to reschedule a game and our request to move our game to Leicester was not approved – only for that it would then be postponed when Leicester applied.
“The original intention of the orientation – here – was to deal with player availability directly affected by COVID cases, resulting in depleted squads which, combined with injuries, would prevent the club from fielding a squad.
“We don’t believe the intent was to manage player availability unrelated to COVID.
“We can now see the unintended consequences of this rule. It is important to have clarity and consistency on the application of the rule.
As a debate over the decision, and whether Arsenal’s shortages are self-inflicted with Granit Xhaka suspended and two players allowed to leave the Emirates on loan last week, the initial reaction from former Gunner Clarke was the sadness and frustration of the fans who will now be left in the pocket.
Tottenham also apologized to their supporters, saying: “Once again the fans have had their plans interrupted at an unacceptable time. We are sincerely sorry to our fans – some of whom will have traveled great distances.
Clarke told talkSPORT ‘it’s not’ that the huge clash was called off with just over 24 hours’ notice.
He also fumed that “the supporters are always seen as the last” and called on Arsenal to help reimburse their own supporters after calling off a game that many thought should have taken place.
talkSPORT host Adrian Durham – who has accused Arsenal of ‘running scared of Tottenham’ – was on the air with Ray Parlor and Clarke when the news broke on Saturday afternoon, and he said: “That what about the fans?
“We know for a fact that there are fans coming from Ireland to watch these games, Arsenal and Tottenham fans will be booking flights and hotels, and now they are going to lose money.”
“It’s not at all,” Clarke said.
“I’d like to think maybe the club can help repay some of the costs there.
“There will be hundreds if not thousands of fans and tourist fans who we know we get a lot of at the big Premier League clubs.
“They will be seriously discouraged by this and will have incurred many travel expenses that they will no longer recover.
“It’s always the fans who are considered last in situations like this, always, and it’s a shame it really is.”
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