Start Of EPL Season Could Be Postponed If Riots Continue To Spread
The start of the EPL season is "under threat after further rioting in Manchester and the West Midlands last night undermined an earlier claim by the league authorities that no games outside London were under threat from public disorder," according to Sam Wallace of the London INDEPENDENT. The EPL, which is scheduled to begin its regular season Saturday, in a joint statement with the Football League early yesterday afternoon said there was "no reason to think any matches outside of London will be affected." However, as disturbances grew in Manchester, Salford and West Bromwich last night, it "raised the question whether police resources would be able to cope" with this weekend's games. The EPL last night said that it was "waiting for clubs to liaise with their respective police forces before making any decision." The league and the Football League "want a decision by the end of tomorrow at the latest on whether games will go ahead." All decisions "will be based primarily on police resources." In the Football League, there are "five London clubs playing at home over the weekend in the three divisions." They also will "seek police advice before deciding whether to go ahead with their fixtures, depending on the situation over the next few days." The latest developments followed the FA taking the "unprecedented step of cancelling" tonight’s England-Netherlands friendly at Wembley Stadium after Monday night's riots in London (London INDEPENDENT, 8/10). The TELEGRAPH's Winter & Wilson note if the police cannot guarantee "sufficient resources for a game then the clubs will not receive a safety certificate and will have no option but to postpone" (TELEGRAPH, 8/10). Tottenham players have "accepted that safety is paramount as the Premier League considers postponing games" (ESPNSOCCERNET.com, 8/9). Tottenham D Younes Kaboul said that the league "should strongly consider rescheduling" Saturday's game "for the sake of the fans if the ongoing situation fails to improve" (London DAILY MAIL, 8/10).
FOCUSED ON WHAT'S IMPORTANT: In London, Dart, Hobson & Slot note the concern with playing games this weekend is not only that the matches are "potential flashpoints in themselves, but that the police presence that is a prerequisite at any high-profile match cannot be guaranteed because officers may be needed elsewhere." Everton D Sylvain Distin said, "It seems unreal. Football right now is not the most important thing. I know the fans expect the season to start, but when you see what's happened, it's more important than whether the game's going to be on or not" (LONDON TIMES, 8/10). Also in London, Oliver Kay notes the riots have "struck a chord with England's footballers." Manchester United F Wayne Rooney yesterday on his Twitter feed wrote, "This is embarrassing for our country. Stop please" (LONDON TIMES, 8/10).
REASSURING TONE: U.K. Minister for Sport & Olympics Hugh Robertson yesterday assured reps from 200 countries that security plans for next year's London Games "will prove adequate in the wake of rioting across London and in areas around the main Olympic Park." Chef de missions from most competing nations' NOCs are in London for a "scheduled briefing," as is IOC Coordination Commission Chair Denis Oswald, who is "charged with overseeing the delivery of the Games." Robertson is adamant that the plan drawn up by the Metropolitan Police and security advisers is "robust enough and would cope were there to be trouble this time next year" (London INDEPENDENT, 8/10). The GUARDIAN's Richard Williams notes the Olympics "will take place during the school holidays, and the weather could well be warm: two features of this week's riotous events" (GUARDIAN, 8/10). However, British Olympic Association Head of Olympic Media & Communications Strategy Darryl Seibel said that he believes the "continued trouble should not affect preparations for the 2012 Games and even offers the opportunity for sport to heal some of the wounds caused by the current violence." Seibel: "It makes an Olympic Games and a Paralympic Games all the more important. We need a reason to come together" (London TELEGRAPH, 8/10).
ON WITH THE GAMES: In N.Y., Macur & Panner report the Olympic test events scheduled for London this week are "expected to go off as planned." The world badminton championships are being held in North London, a marathon swim will be held in Hyde Park Saturday and a cycling race will take place Sunday. A beach volleyball tournament that began at Horse Guards Parade yesterday was "pushed up by three hours so it could end by nightfall" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/10). Spanish volleyball player Alejandra Simon said, "Our parents are worried but we're not. This is one of the most amazing places I've ever played. There is a lot of security. We're feeling really comfortable" (LONDON TIMES, 8/10).