What are the implications of cancelling the England match?

From future friendlies to refunds for fans to relations with the Dutch... Sam Wallace reveals the repercussions for national team and the FA of scrapping game
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The Independent Football

When was the decision to cancel the game made?

The Football Association met even before the COBRA committee yesterday morning. They had talks with the Metropolitan Police, government officials and Brent Council (the borough in which Wembley stadium is situated). After the previous night's rioting and looting it was an easy decision to make.

Does Brent Council have the final say?

It issues the safety certificate that legally permits the game to go ahead. It would have issued it for tonight if it was to be a "behind-closed-doors" game but not for 70,000-plus fans.

Is it right that the FA was worried about being able to protect the safety of both teams?

Yes, that was a concern, although one of many considering that there was also a 70,000-plus crowd to get in and out safely. The Dutch team were due to stay at a hotel in Bayswater, west London, which would have meant them travelling through the city.

How many police were needed for the match?

The FA would not give specifics – it says that is down to the Met – but tonight's game was to be rated as a low risk, "category A" match. Sunday's Community Shield between the two Manchester clubs, for instance, was rated as a higher-risk match. It means there would have been fewer police officers on duty at Wembley. But even so, the Metropolitan Police could not commit the resources to policing the game.

Did they consider playing a game behind closed doors?

Yes. It would have been 10-a-side between the members of the England squad rather than against the Dutch. In the end Fabio Capello decided that he would be best served tailoring his training session yesterday differently in terms of preparations for the next Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria. After lunch the players were free to go home although a couple of them were spotted having a round of golf at The Grove hotel in the afternoon.

Why did the players not speak at the FA press conference at lunchtime yesterday?

At that time there had barely been any word from the Government on the riots, let alone other public figures. With such a fast-moving situation, the FA and the players thought it would be wrong to throw themselves into the thick of it with so much potential for change. The likes of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry are not under the illusion that a few words from them would stop the trouble. Some have spoken about it on Twitter but would be less sure-footed commentating on major social issues.

Whose idea was it that the whole squad join FA chairman David Bernstein in his press conference?

Terry and Ferdinand made the suggestion to FA officials after breakfast. The squad had sat together to watch the pictures from the night's rioting on TV that morning. By the time they left the room most of them expected the game to be called off, FA officials said.

How much will cancelling the game cost the FA?

Early estimates are that it is not too much of a financial hit. Around £1m to £2m. The FA had sold a lot of tickets at reduced rates. It has around 17,000 high-end Club Wembley season-ticket holders who pay annually rather than by the game. The FA was loath to dismiss the financial considerations but put bluntly this is not a catastrophic blow for the FA, even though it will be refunding all the tickets sold (see www.theFA.com).

What about the extra costs?

Well, there are stacks of boxes of the programme for the game that never was piled up at Wembley HQ. They were printed a day before the decision was made and there are plans to sell them on the web. Funnily enough, the FA says that it has already had plenty of inquiries.

Are the Dutch unhappy?

The KNVB (Dutch FA) chief executive, Bert van Oostveen, was quoted as saying that they would ask for compensation. The FA claimed yesterday it has heard nothing from him. It made a promise on Monday night to call the Dutch before the squad got on their bus to the airport in Amsterdam at 9.30am. As it turned out, the FA was able to tell them before then that thee game was cancelled.

When will the FA recoup the money?

There are more opportunities than you think. The FA estimates it takes only two-thirds of the international dates open to it. For instance, it could have played another game before the Switzerland fixture in June but chose not to. There are also two free dates in November when the Euro 2012 qualifying play-offs are scheduled. Of course, if things go wrong in the last three qualifying games, England might be participating in those play-offs.

Are the broadcasters unhappy?

No. ITV who were showing the game live agreed with the decision by the FA. Presumably they are currently scouring the TV sporting rights market for an emergency replacement tonight. Monkey tennis, anyone?

Has an England international ever been cancelled before?

No England game in recent memory has ever been cancelled at such short notice but others have been called off. In the days when the FA was still getting to grips with the hooligan element, scheduled games against Italy (16 November 1988) and Holland (13 December 1989) had to be called off for security reasons. The FA also abandoned a planned friendly game against Germany in 1994 when it realised it had scheduled it for Hitler's birthday (20 April).

Will it affect England's reputation as one of the most sought-after friendlies for international teams?

The FA chairman, David Bernstein, said he was confident that was not the case. At the recent World Cup 2014 draw in Brazil, FA officials were inundated with requests from other countries to play friendlies abroad. Despite the national team's lack of tournament success, the glamour of the Premier League and the colourful characters who play in the England team still carries great weight.

The affected fixtures


Last night Ghana v Nigeria (Vicarage Road), Bristol City v Swindon, Charlton v Reading, Crystal Palace v Crawley, West Ham v Aldershot

Tonight England v Netherlands

At risk:

Saturday Fulham v Aston Villa, QPR v Bolton, Tottenham v Everton, Crystal Palace v Burnley, Millwall v Nottingham Forest, Leyton Orient v Tranmere, Barnet v Port Vale, Dagenham & Redbridge v AFC Wimbledon

(Meanwhile, in cricket, Middlesex have brought forward the start-time of today's match against Yorkshire at Lord's from 3.40pm to 12pm as a precaution)

The sporting world has its say over the London riots

@joey7barton This is what happens when uneducated people get bored, lack of education leads to violence.... protesting about nothing. (Joey Barton)

@flintoff11 Not sure what else the pm can do, 16k police officers on the streets tonight who deserve our gratitude, if that doesn't work god help us. (Andrew Flintoff)

@rioferdy5 I can't tell the youths exactly what to do but stealing tv's + trainers+burning innocent peoples houses+shops aint solving nothing at all. (Rio Ferdinand)

@WayneRooney These riots are nuts why would people do this to there own country. Own city. This is embarrassing for our country. Stop please. (Wayne Rooney)

@StewieCricket What are these riots achieving. Our great Country does not deserve this. Send in the troops to sort out these hooligans and criminals. (Alec Stewart)

@JackWilshere London does not look good. May peace be found as soon as possible. (Jack Wilshire)

@mlewisfrancis I know times are hard but this is not the way forward. We will all have to pay for these riots so pls #stoptheriots. (Mark Lewis-Francis)

@BunnyOnions Some unbelievable sights in London today. (Graham Onions)

@JimmyAnderson9 Awful scenes around the country. Saw it first hand in Birmingham last night. Great to see people coming together to help with the clean up. (James Anderson)

@alextudorcoach Morning all hope your all safe this morning... what madness last night can't believe what I was seeing on tv, politicians still no idea. (Alex Tudor)

@Swannyg66 Goodnight England. Good luck to those surrounded by the carnage. Be safe. (Graeme Swann)

@jaybothroyd Yet more anarchy and violence, I can't believe it... it's disgusting. (Jay Bothroyd)

@andy_murray Can't believe how out of hand the riots are... Ruining peoples homes, businesses, lives... sort it out now. (Andy Murray)

@Daley_thompson Tonight the police need to go out and be able to do their jobs. (Daley Thompson)

@ollybarkley A reactive Government and a barely reactive police force confined by legalities that help to support the people we're trying lock up. Uh? (Olly Barkley)