Conte says Premier League meeting on schedule concerns was a waste of time

A member of the ground staff carries a ball wearing plastic gloves against the coronavirus ahead of a English Premier League game. — AP
A member of the ground staff carries a ball wearing plastic gloves against the coronavirus ahead of a English Premier League game. — AP

London - The Premier League held a meeting with club managers and captains to discuss the match congestion but held firm on maintaining the fixture schedule



By Reuters/AFP

Published: Fri 24 Dec 2021, 11:04 PM

Premier League managers put forward their concerns on fixture congestion in Thursday’s meeting with the league but it felt like they were talking to a wall, Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte said on Friday.

Both players and managers have been up in arms over player welfare with many teams playing twice in three days after Christmas while Covid-19 outbreaks have forced the Premier League to postpone games, creating a fixture pile-up.

The Premier League held a meeting with club managers and captains to discuss the match congestion but held firm on maintaining the fixture schedule.

“I have to be honest, I think that it was a meeting (where) we tried to speak. Some coaches tried to speak to ask about a solution but I think everything was decided,” Conte told reporters ahead of Sunday’s match against Crystal Palace.

“Yesterday (Thursday), it was a wall. For this reason I prefer I don’t go into the discussion.”

When asked if the meeting was a waste of time, Conte said: “I think so. When you have a wall in front of you — you can speak and ask for what you want — but every decision was (already) taken.”

Spurs had a Covid-19 outbreak at the club earlier this month which led to three games in all competitions being called off and Conte said he was worried about player fatigue if those who recovered have to play twice in three days.

“It is not easy for us, it is not easy for all the teams to play after only one day, it’s not simple. You have to manage the situation very well because of the risk of losing players to injuries,” Conte added.

“We have to pay great attention, especially my team. Don’t forget we had half our squad (out) with Covid... When you get Covid, then you have to live with this situation for two to three weeks after you are finished with Covid.

“If there is someone that has a bit of fatigue, it will be very important to have a good chat with the players because we have to manage this period.”

Scrap League Cup: Rangnick

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has suggested abolishing the League Cup in a bid to ease fixture congestion in English football.

The schedule, traditionally at its busiest over the Christmas and New Year period, has come under severe strain from the impact of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, with several Premier League clubs hit by Covid-19 outbreaks and several Boxing Day (December 26) matches postponed.

United have been out of action since December 11 due to their own virus problems and have seen league games against Brentford and Brighton postponed.

They are set to return to action at Newcastle on Monday, with Rangnick saying Friday: “It is a big tradition in England to play on Boxing Day or the 27th, even on the 30th or the 2nd of January.

“I think we should stick to and respect this tradition, but there might be two other issues that have been discussed in the past.”

He added: “England is the only country in the top five leagues in Europe that plays two cup competitions. In France they abolished the second one a year or two ago, so we are the only country who plays two cup competitions. This is something we could once again speak about and discuss.

“I know the League Cup is still kept for the third and fourth division teams to improve the financial situations of those clubs. But if we speak about a tight calendar and having to play too many games, this is something to discuss.”

Rangnick welcomed the move announced Monday to scrap FA Cup third and fourth round replays.

Ties will now be played to a conclusion at the first attempt, with extra time and penalties if required.

But the Football Association, which scrapped replays for the whole of last season’s competition, intends to restore them for the 2022/23 edition.

When it came to abolishing FA Cup replays, Rangnick said: “This is a good idea. In cup competitions in other countries you play extra time and penalties. You have replays, those are topics you could speak about.”

United’s squad were reduced to eight fit outfield players and three goalkeepers before the Covid-19 outbreak that forced their Carrington training ground to be closed for four days.

But Rangnick defended United’s vaccination record by saying: “We also need to make sure we have most of the players vaccinated. I know we have a high record of vaccinated players in our club.” — Reuters/AFP


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