Riots could ruin season's big kick-off


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The Independent Online

The start of the Premier League season is under threat after further rioting in Manchester and the West Midlands last night undermined an earlier claim by the league authorities that no games outside London were under threat from public disorder.

The Premier League, which is due to begin with the first round of fixtures on Saturday, said, in a joint statement with the Football League at 6.30pm, that there was "no reason to think any matches outside of London will be affected". However, as disturbances grew in Manchester, Salford and West Bromwich it raised the question whether police resources would be able to cope with the weekend fixtures.

The clubs in London who are playing home fixtures on Saturday – Tottenham, Fulham and Queen's Park Rangers – will take advice from the Metropolitan Police who will have the final say. If there are further disturbances overnight then the Premier League wants clubs to come to a decision as soon as possible, and by tomorrow evening at the latest.

The decision is based primarily on police resources. The Metropolitan Police advised last night that all major events that required police numbers should be postponed so that the force could concentrate on dealing with the rioters. Although the Football Association could not give precise numbers on the amount of police that would have been required at Wembley tonight for England's friendly against the Netherlands, the number is estimated at around 400.

The FA acted swiftly yesterday, deciding by 9am that, in consultation with the police, the government and Brent Council, the friendly against the Netherlands could not go ahead.

In the Football League there are five London clubs playing at home over the weekend in the three divisions – Crystal Palace, Millwall, Leyton Orient, Barnet and Dagenham and Redbridge. It will also seek police advice before deciding whether to go ahead with its fixtures depending on the situation over the next few days.

After the FA cancelled tonight's game, the entire England squad, as well as manager Fabio Capello, accompanied FA chairman David Bernstein (pictured) to a press conference at their hotel in Hertfordshire. The decision to come en masse was made by defenders John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.

The players thought it would be unwise for them to speak individually about the riots with the situation changing all the time, but a statement was read in which they appealed "for calm and an end to the disorder".