14 English fans arrested in Cologne

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The first serious disturbances involving England fans at the World Cup flared in Cologne last night. Fourteen English fans were held by police after trouble flared ahead of England's World Cup game against Sweden today.

However, all were later released with no action against them.

More than 2,000 England supporters were partying in the Alter Markt, one of Cologne's old squares, late last night when one of them fell from a statue he had climbed.

Fans started throwing bottles and riot police moved in to clear the area.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: "Sixteen British people were detained but they were all released with no further action."

German police Superintendent Stefan Schwarz confirmed that officers used pepper spray on the fans during the operation to clear the area.

He said 16 police officers were slightly injured. Only one, a female officer hit on the foot with a bottle, needed hospital treatment.

Some eyewitnesses said a German had tried to climb the statue shortly before the incident.

Mr Schwarz said: "We are not aware there was a German there, though I have heard these reports.

"There was an England fan at the top of the statue, and somehow he dropped a bottle of beer by mistake.

"That provoked a reaction in the crowd. People at the bottom got angry because they were hit by broken glass and started throwing missiles at the man on the statue.

"The man fell from the statue. We don't know how badly hurt he is.

"The England fans were throwing bottles at the German police, and that's when we had to intervene to clear the area."

The Acpo spokeswoman said they were not aware of any Britons being seriously injured.

Until last night's violence, the England supporters gathering in Cologne for tonight's game had remained boisterous but well-behaved, cementing the reputation they earned at the first two games in Frankfurt and Nuremberg.

England only need to draw the match to win Group B.