English Premier League football club Arsenal’s opening match of the 2017-18 Europa League against German Bundesliga club Cologne kicked off one hour late after officials at the Emirates Stadium were forced to delay the match due to crowd trouble.
An estimated 20,000 Cologne fans were in London yesterday (Thursday) prior to the match, despite the Cologne having an allocation of just 2,900 tickets.
Thousands of ticketless supporters descended on the stadium in the lead-up to the match and, according to the BBC, there were a number of scuffles between fans and stewards once the gates to the venue were opened.
Although police said that five people had been arrested on suspicion of public order offences, there were no reports of crowd trouble inside the stadium during the match, which kicked off at 21:05BST, an hour behind schedule.
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement: “Officers responded to reports of disorder at the Emirates Stadium during the evening of Thursday, 14 September where a large number of supporters had gathered for the Arsenal vs FC Koln match.
“A flexible policing plan was in place and additional officers were deployed. No reports of any significant incidents.”
However, a conflicting report from BBC Radio 5 Live correspondent Richard Conway said that there were a number of disturbances at the Emirates Stadium before the game kicked off.
Conway posted a video on his Twitter page that apparently shows Cologne fans tussling with stewards inside the stadium.
Conway said: “A group of Cologne fans entered the Emirates Stadium adjacent to the away section and proceeded to fight with stewards in an attempt to gain entry to the away section at around 20:15.
“A further group arrived around five minutes later and also battled their way into their section. Police wearing riot helmets – some with dogs – then entered the stadium and order was restored.”
John Southall, also a reporter for BBC Radio 5 Live, was at the stadium for the game and said Cologne supporters had managed to access numerous areas of the stadium, despite only being permitted to sit in the away section.
During the BBC’s live text coverage of the match, Southall wrote: “The Cologne fans are all over the Emirates, they’re meant to have the 3,000 seats behind one goal but it’s become very apparent that they’re pretty much in the whole lower tier at that end.”
After initially going a goal behind, Arsenal went on to win the match 3-1.
Image: Arsenal mjh