‘We feel un­safe – Cologne fans are ev­ery­where in here’

Crowd trou­ble de­lays kick-off by an hour Wenger thought match might be post­poned

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - News - Sam Wal­lace CHIEF FOOT­BALL WRITER at the Emi­rates

Cologne fans kicked bar­ri­ers down amid chaos around the Emi­rates Sta­dium that de­layed Arse­nal’s Europa League group game for an hour be­fore the sched­uled 8.05pm kick-off – with fears that the 20,000 Ger­man fans who had trav­elled to London would try to storm turn­stiles.

Arsene Wenger said af­ter the game that he ex­pected Uefa to in­ves­ti­gate what led to the huge num­bers of tick­et­less Ger­man fans de­lay­ing the game, al­though the early in­di­ca­tions were that the gov­ern­ing body would not charge the home club.

The game fi­nally kicked off at 9.05pm with Cologne’s away end in the Clock End at the south­ern end of the sta­dium packed and size­able groups of the Bun­desliga club’s fans all over the ground. The de­lay was de­cided upon by Arse­nal, the Metropoli­tan Po­lice and Uefa be­cause the huge num­bers of Ger­man fans out­side the sta­dium had caused a safety prob­lem and home fans were un­able to ac­cess the sta­dium.

This was Cologne’s first Euro­pean tie in 25 years and the game against such fa­mous op­po­si­tion had at­tracted great in­ter­est among the club’s large fan­base.

The es­ti­mate was that there were 20,000 Cologne fans in London for the game and only 2,900 tick­ets al­lo­cated for the trav­el­ling sup­port­ers, as per Uefa reg­u­la­tions. Dur­ing the day a large crowd of Cologne fans marched through Soho and then into Ox­ford Street which they brought to a halt. The Met Po­lice said that there was “no sig­nif­i­cant dis­or­der” al­though some footage taken on a mo­bile phone showed Cologne fans kick­ing over bar­ri­ers in what seemed like a bid to get close to the sta­dium. Five peo­ple were ar­rested for pub­lic or­der of­fences and there were also large num­bers of Cologne fans con­gre­gat­ing and singing in a con­course in a home area of the ground.

By half-time the at­mos­phere among home sup­port­ers was an­gry with frus­tra­tion at the lack of seg­re­ga­tion that forced many of them to move from their seats, as well as their team’s per­for­mance. Arse­nal trailed 1-0 at half-time to a goal from Jhon Cor­doba in the 10th minute, but they came back to win the game 3-1 with sec­ond half goals from Sead Ko­lasinic, Alexis Sanchez and Hec­tor Bel­lerin.

Wenger said that the great­est dis-

trac­tion for him was the dis­cus­sion be­fore the match about pos­si­ble reschedul­ing if the game had to be post­poned.

“I had all kinds of plans to think about,” he said “Do we play to­mor­row? What time? Or next week? At some stage I thought they will not play the game. I can­not see the po­lice tak­ing any risk. We live in a so­ci­ety of 100 per cent se­cu­rity and I though they wouldn’t take the risk. Our sup­port­ers dealt well with the sit­u­a­tion. I don’t know how the Cologne fans man­aged to in­fil­trate our fans and they got ev­ery­where. ”

By con­trast, the Cologne coach Peter Stoger re­fused flatly to en­ter­tain any ques­tions on the con­duct of his club’s fans.

Un­der Uefa com­pe­ti­tion reg­u­la­tions, Arse­nal are likely to es­cape with a warn­ing at the very most for their de­layed kick-off es­pe­cially as it is their first of­fence in this re­gard. Given that the de­ci­sion was made in con­cert with Uefa of­fi­cials it may well be that there are no con­se­quences, al­though the smoothrun­ning op­er­a­tion of a club ex­pe­ri­enced in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion was dis­rupted in un­prece­dented fash­ion. Arse­nal will be fined €500 (£444) for every flare let off in the sta­dium.

The Met Po­lice later said that ex­tra of­fi­cers had been called in. There were 110 po­lice of­fi­cers sched­uled to be on duty and the club said that ex­tra stew­ards had been de­ployed al­though anec­do­tal re­ports from fans said that the stew­ards them­selves had claimed to be “short-staffed”.

There were so many Cologne sup­port­ers in the Clock End of the sta­dium that sup­port­ers who felt un­safe there were given the op­tion by stew­ards of mov­ing to another part of the ground. One sup­porter, Adam Ken­ney, 24, from Mar­ket Har­bor­ough, told The Daily Tele­graph that he was a club mem­ber and asked to leave the Clock End, even­tu­ally re­lo­cat­ing him­self in the West Stand. Ken­ney said: “We feel un­safe, there are Cologne fans ev­ery­where in here. I was told by a stew­ard to go to the North Bank.”

Af­ter the open­ing goal by Cor­doba af­ter nine min­utes, there were cel­e­bra­tions all around the sta­dium with groups of Cologne sup­port­ers jump­ing up to ac­knowl­edge their goalscorer in the ar­eas be­hind the sub­sti­tutes’ benches. Some Arse­nal fans an­grily called upon stew­ards to clear the away sup­port­ers but in the Clock End it was no­table that there were Cologne fans in every tier of the sta­dium, even in the pre­mium seats on the “Club Level”.

In mak­ing the de­ci­sion for the match to go ahead, the Arse­nal di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions Mark Gon­nella said that the club were “com­fort­able” with the sit­u­a­tion hav­ing con­sulted with Uefa and the Met Po­lice and were happy for the match to go ahead at the later kick­off time.

Red alert: Po­lice con­front Cologne fans (left), who had ear­lier swamped Ox­ford Street (be­low). Once the match started, Alexis Sanchez (above) was able to cel­e­brate his won­der goal

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