Arsenal and Cologne charged for fan chaos
Uefa takes action after Emirates crowd trouble Away fans bought tickets from home members
A row erupted last night over who was to blame for the violence and chaos to engulf Arsenal’s opening Europa League match after Uefa charged both clubs.
The governing body opened disciplinary proceedings against each club. Cologne face action for the behaviour of fans which threatened to cause Thursday’s Group H game to be abandoned, including crowd disturbances, the setting off of fireworks, the throwing of objects and acts of damage.
Arsenal, who were charged only with the blocking of stairways in an away supporter section, also launched a “full review” into events that caused the kick-off to be postponed by more than an hour, riot police and police dogs deployed inside the Emirates Stadium, and five arrests made.
The club lay the blame on the thousands of Cologne fans who had obtained tickets “illegally”, as well as warning any subscriber to Arsenal’s membership scheme found to have provided such tickets would be expelled from the scheme, with further “appropriate action taken”.
Cologne, some of whose supporters disguised themselves as home fans, hit back by accusing their hosts of being “not adequately prepared” for what unfolded and branding the police presence at the match as having been “too small”.
They also criticised Arsenal for failing to take the “sensible” step of making more than the minimum 2,900 tickets available to visiting supporters, given the huge demand from a side playing their first European match for 25 years and the predictable lack of interest from home fans in their club’s first season outside the Champions League for almost as long.
Supporters of both clubs echoed those sentiments, with some Arsenal fans claiming they had been told by Germans who obtained tickets in the home end that they had done so by joining their opponents’ membership scheme after last month’s draw and buying through their official ticket exchange service. Arsenal last night declared that would have been impossible, with a block on such sales one of the key features on that service, although the club did admit pre-existing members would have been able to buy tickets and sell them on to Cologne fans illegally.
It emerged yesterday that thousands of those fans had got tickets from Arsenal members and on resale platforms such as Viagogo, Stubhub and Ticketbis, as well as from Craigslist. One thing no one disputed was that many, many more supporters travelled to London for the game – an estimated 20,000 – than could be realistically accommodated at the Emirates.
Despite launching a review to learn lessons from Thursday’s chaos, Arsenal were adamant they were not to blame for tickets in the home end being sold to away supporters, insisting they had taken “extensive steps” to prevent that in consultation with their opponents.
Estimating less than 10,000 Cologne fans got into the game, they added: “Unfortunately, there were clearly many Cologne supporters in Arsenal sections of the stadium. They obtained their tickets illegally, most likely via ticket touts.
“Any tickets found that have been sold or purchased illegally will be traced back to the original
‘There was a big failure in sensible planning and that’s one of the lessons that needs learning’
purchaser who will have their membership cancelled and the appropriate action taken.”
Cologne condemned and apologised for “the fact that a group of so-called disturbers threatened, insulted, and even attacked stewards and police officers without cause”, but only after attacking Arsenal’s refusal to award a larger ticket allocation. “It would have been sensible, not least for security reasons, to allow more than the allocated five per cent of stadium capacity to the guest fans,” they said.
“It was apparent that thousands of people from Cologne would seek to avoid the restrictions and get tickets in every way possible. One such way would be through the help of Arsenal supporters, who passed on their tickets to the FC fans. Some as gifts, but some also for horrendous prices.”
Arsenal confirmed they had considered a request for Cologne for more tickets but did not want to “disadvantage home fans”, pointing out the match had been virtually sold out. But Tim Payton of the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust told The Daily Telegraph the club should have given their opponents 9,000 tickets, as they would for an FA Cup tie. “They knew full well Arsenal fans were not going to buy these tickets or would put them into the official ticket exchange,” he said.
“There was a big failure in sensible planning there and that’s where one of the lessons needs learning.”
Arne Steinberg, managing editor of the FC Cologne fanzine effzeh. com, said: “I know that Cologne asked Arsenal two times for an allocation of at least 10,000 tickets. The delayed kick-off was the result of bad management.” Payton added: “If the segregation had broken down when we were playing a Turkish team or with Red Star Belgrade fans, who are due later in the group, it could have been carnage.”