September 15 – As anticipated, UEFA have opened disciplinary proceedings following chaotic scenes that marred Arsenal’s Europa League fixture against Cologne last night.
Kickoff was delayed by an hour after a reported 20,000 Cologne fans had made their way through London towards Arsenal’s ground despite only 3,000 tickets being allocated to the German club, who were playing in European competition for the first time in 25 years.
Cologne fans tried to storm the turnstile gates and burst through police cordons outside causing the game to be delayed “in the interests of crowd safety”.
Hundreds of away fans were reported to have purchased tickets from touts in the home section prompting Arsenal to launch a full review.
Uefa’s charges against Cologne consist of crowd disturbances, setting off fireworks, throwing of objects and acts of damage. Against Arsenal the charge is one of blocking stairways in the away end.
The case will be dealt by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body on 21 September but Arsenal issued a full statement explaining their version of events.
“We worked in full consultation with police and UEFA officials on the night and in advance of the game and had taken extensive steps in advance to prevent tickets being sold to visiting supporters,” the statement said.
“This included a number of measures including ensuring no tickets were sold via general sale and that no red memberships purchased after the draw were able to be used to get tickets in the home end for this match. We also worked with our colleagues at Cologne to stop supporters travelling without match tickets.
“The 3,000 tickets issued to Cologne fans was in line with competition rules but it is clear many more visiting fans arrived, causing significant congestion and disturbance outside the stadium before kick-off. Many tickets were sold through touts and this is very disappointing.”
The scenes led to a handful of arrests but eyewitnesses said the chaos could have been much worse and Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose team won 3-1, said he was surprised the match was allowed to go ahead.
“They (Cologne fans) were very clever. I don’t know how they managed to infiltrate our fans and get everywhere but they did that very well,” he said. “Were the problems created by people who had no tickets? I don’t know. But certainly they (Cologne) had more people here than tickets so that was certainly the cause.
“At some stage I thought they would not play the game, because I can’t see the police taking any risk.”