London (AFP) – Arsenal said Friday they were investigating how vast numbers of away fans gained access to the home sections of Emirates Stadium for their clash with Cologne, sparking ugly scenes that marred the Europa League clash.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he had been preparing for a postponement at the north London ground, describing the decision to play the game as a “gamble”.
Visiting fans were issued with 3,000 tickets but around 20,000 fans of the German club are believed to have made the journey to the British capital.
The start of the match was delayed by an hour as ticketless Cologne fans sought to gain entry to the ground and there were clearly thousands of away supporters sitting among Arsenal fans, causing a security risk.
Five arrests were made and Arsenal issued a statement insisting the safety of supporters was the main concern at the time.
Earlier, YouTube footage showed thousands of Cologne fans surging through the streets of London, chanting in unison and setting off flares.
“Following last night’s UEFA Europa League match with Cologne, we would like to stress that fan safety was always our paramount concern and informed all decisions made,” Arsenal’s statement said.
“We have launched a full review into the circumstances surrounding the game and will ensure any lessons that can be learned are used in the future.”
A UEFA probe is also likely after pictures emerged of a minority of Cologne supporters causing problems for stewards inside the stadium.
– UEFA probe –
Wenger said UEFA were certain to look into the incident.
“They (Cologne fans) were very clever,” he said. “I don’t know how they managed to infiltrate our fans and get everywhere but they did that very well. I don’t know if they went through Arsenal membership, on the internet… they did very well.
“I thought they would not play the game, because I can’t see the police taking any risk.
“We live in a society of 100 percent security and I thought they would never take a gamble to play this game when I saw the images around the stadium. But I must say our supporters as well dealt well with the situation and there was no aggravation.”
Cologne goalkeeper Timo Horn said fans who misbehaved had “brought shame on the club” and club legend Bodo Illgner, a World Cup-winning goalkeeper with Germany in 1990, also criticised the small minority of fans who misbehaved.
Arsenal’s statement also said it was “very disappointing” that so many home tickets appeared to have been purchased by Cologne supporters via ticket touts after the club worked closely with police, who deployed extra numbers once the trouble began, and UEFA.
“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,” it said.
“Many tickets were sold through touts and this is very disappointing and something we continue to work hard to address.”
Arsenal won the match 3-1 after falling behind to a long-range strike from Jhon Cordoba before bouncing back in the second half. Substitute Sead Kolasinac equalised before goals from Alexis Sanchez and Hector Bellerin gave the Londoners the win.
Cologne coach Peter Stoeger refused to be questioned on the actions of the club’s supporters: “I have no comment about the fans,” he said.
“I’m the coach, my job is the team, my job is football not the fans,” the Austrian added.
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