The Europa Conference League returns this week with the Round of 16, but Tottenham Hotspur will not be there.
This is the first edition of the new UEFA competition and Tottenham were seen as one of the likely candidates to win it. But Spurs were ousted from the competition though it did not happen on the field.
Tottenham never completed the group stage. On the final group matchday Spurs were set to face France’s Rennes, needing a win to progress to the knockout rounds.
However, due to a COVID-19 outbreak at the club, UEFA did not reschedule the match and later ruled it a Tottenham forfeit, logging it as a 3-0 loss for the English side. That left Spurs stuck in third place and officially out of the inaugural Conference League.
Why Spurs were eliminated from Conference League
Tottenham’s final group match against the French Ligue 1 club was scheduled to be played on Dec. 9 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but was postponed after a COVID-19 outbreak at Spurs.
The North London club was in third place in Group G on seven points – three points behind second-place Vitesse – and needed to beat Rennes by three goals to overtake Vitesse and advance as group runner-up.
When the COVID-19 outbreak forced the match to be cancelled, the thinking was that the match could potentially be replayed. Spurs were even included alongside Vitesse in the official Conference League knockout playoff draw pending UEFA’s final ruling.
But 11 days after the Spurs-Rennes match was scratched, UEFA handed down its decision and ruled the match a forfeit, citing the official tournament regulations.
With Spurs handed a 3-0 loss due to the forfeit, it was Rennes which qualified to the Round of 16 as group winners and Dutch side Vitesse advancing to the Conference League knockout round playoffs as the second-place finisher.
Spurs manager Antonio Conte and his players labeled UEFA’s move as unfair and threatened legal action, but it ultimately decided against it.
Hardly surprising given the next round is in two weeks, but Spurs have decided against appealing UEFA’s decision to award Rennes a 3-0 win in their postponed Europa Conference League group game. The club had discussed it with their lawyers. #THFC
– Jonathan Veal (@ jonathandveal83) February 1, 2022
Will Tottenham qualify for European football in 2022?
The Europa Conference League berth is awarded to the winner of the English League Cup (Carabao Cup). But since Manchester City won the League Cup in 2021, and City were already qualified to the prestigious UEFA Champions League tournament, the Conference League berth went to the next best team in the Premier League standings that had not already qualified to another European club tournaments.
That next team was Spurs, which earned the lone English berth to the inaugural Conference League by virtue of finishing in seventh place in the 2020-21 Premier League standings.
With Liverpool facing Chelsea in the 2022 League Cup final this year, the Conference League berth is likely to once again be reassigned again to the sixth- or seventh-placed Premier League finisher, depending on how other berths shake out.
Spurs currently find themselves in eighth place after 22 games in the Premier League, but they have three games in hand on most of the teams above them in the table. Back-to-back home defeats to Southampton and Wolves have not helped their cause to qualify once more for a European cup competition.
And their next three league games will be tough tests as they face reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, Burnley and Leeds all away from home.
Spurs’ best seasons in Europe
Tottenham has qualified for European club football the last 12 seasons in a row.
The last time Spurs missed out on participating in one of the major UEFA club competitions was the 2009-2010 season after it finished eighth in the Premier League the prior season. It was not enough to land one of the berths.
But over the course of their 140-year history, the Spurs have experienced European success, reaching five finals spanning across three competitions: the now-defunct UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
They won the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963, beating Atletico Madrid 5-1 in Rotterdam to claim their first European trophy.
In 1972, they won their first UEFA Cup trophy, beating fellow English side Wolves 3-2 on aggregate in the final.
Their story with the UEFA Cup continued in 1984, as they beat Anderlecht on penalties at their home ground to win their second UEFA Cup trophy.
In 2019, they reached their first ever Champions League final, after an iconic Lucas Moura inspired semifinal comeback in Amsterdam against Ajax, but lost out in the final 2-0 to fellow English side Liverpool.