x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Riots stop games across the UK

While the England v Holland football match was postponed, the third Test between the England cricket team and India was due to go ahead.

LONDON // Several football matches were called off because of rioting and Olympic organisers changed the timing of a beach volleyball event, but the England cricket team say they are preparing to begin their Test against India today as scheduled.

The English Football Association (FA) called off England's friendly with Holland tonight at Wembley because they felt they would be unable to guarantee the safety of the fans or teams.

Carling Cup matches at West Ham United, Bristol City, Crystal Palace and Charlton Athletic were also postponed, and football officials declined to comment on the possibility of this weekend's opening round of Premier League fixtures being affected.

The England-Holland game is the most high-profile sporting event to be lost so far because of the disturbances. The FA said it decided to cancel the match after discussions with the Metropolitan Police, the Government and Brent Council.

"We have received clear advice that due to the sporadic and widespread nature of the unrest there are significant concerns in relation to the available emergency service resource to safely police the fixture," the FA said.

"In light of these concerns regarding policing and emergency service provision the authorities have advised us that ... we are unable to host the fixture, or guarantee the safety of visiting supporters or the teams. For these reasons the game cannot go ahead."

London's police force has struggled to contain the violence across the city.

"We do not need the additional burden of a crowd of 80,000 people on our streets tomorrow night," a police statement said.

"Every officer on duty must be deployed to protect life, our communities and properties." About 70,000 tickets had already been sold for the match, which was abandoned before the Dutch team flew to England yesterday morning.

Meanwhile, Olympic organisers said a beach volleyball test event for the London Games will finish 90 minutes early because of security concerns. Organizers say they will use two courts instead of one for so that spectators, staff and volunteers can leave before dark.

Other Olympic events this week include a marathon swimming competition at Hyde Park on Saturday and a cycling road race that will go through the streets of the capital on Sunday.

The England cricket team remained focused on their preparations for the third Test against India at Edgbaston in Birmingham, Andrew Strauss, the captain, said.

Violence spread outside London with some shops in Birmingham city centre attacked by looters, but Strauss said yesterday his team felt "very safe" at their hotel.

"The advice we have been given is we fully expect the game to go ahead. I think it's up to the authorities to decide if the game goes ahead, so we're focusing and preparing as we would," he told Sky Sports News.

"There are extraordinary circumstances at the moment but to think anything other than the game going ahead would be wrong."

Strauss said the players have stayed at their hotel on the advice of their security team.

"We're very safe," he said. "It's for the authorities to decide if it's unsafe for the game to go ahead in terms of stewarding and policing, but at the moment we've been given no indication that's the case.

"We've got to prepare to play a game of cricket. It's for other people to deal with what's going on at the moment. I think the game will go ahead as usual, and if we can take people's attention away from what's going on that's a good thing."

Members of the England football team supported the decision to call off their match with Holland, officials said.

"On behalf of the squad we would like to say that we are disappointed that tomorrow's game will be called off, but obviously we understand the reasons behind the decision and we support it," Adrian Bevington, the Club England managing director, said in a statement yesterday.

"We've all seen the terrible pictures on the television and the most important thing at this time is the safety of the fans and the general public.

"At this time the whole squad would like to appeal for calm and an end to the disorder which has been ongoing."

David Bernstein, the FA chairman, said the organisation would seek to rearrange the fixture, possibly next year.

"Obviously it's not straightforward with the international calendar," he said. "But there are potential slots which could come available and any losses through not playing the game can be regained by playing the fixture at the earliest possible convenience."

The FA said general admission tickets for the match would be refunded in full.

Asked if the players would be asked to use their influence with the young rioters, the FA chairman was uncertain.

"I think it is a fair point to say the players do carry great weight in the importance they carry with youngsters," Bevington said. "But I think it's also a volatile situation so I don't think it would be fair to put the players in a position where they are dissecting the social debate.