The Arsenal v Cologne game was delayed for over an hour last night as thousands of German fans arrived without tickets and the touts must have had a field day selling unused Arsenal tickets. Hundreds of police were drafted in to try and calm the situation and finally the game went ahead.
Arsene Wenger said that the players were calm but he thought after a while that the police were set to call off the game. He said: “We waited patiently in our dressing room but what was difficult was for me was I had all kind of plans to think about at some stage. I had to think if we play tomorrow at what time do we want to play, do we play next week… but they have the Bundesliga again in midweek, and we had a League Cup game midweek as well. Do we move it to Tuesday and play Thursday? It was all kind of speculations you know that we had to analyse and see how we can deal with the situation.
“But in the end at some stage 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 per cent 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 as well and there was no aggravation. I hope everything goes well after the game.”
Wenger went on to assure the media that it was the fault of the travelling fans. “Look, I’ve followed German football for a long time and I thought Cologne had not played in Europe for 25 years. On the first night they go out [to play], they spoil their night. I couldn’t understand that.
“Were the problems created by people who had no tickets? I don’t know. But certainly they had more people here than tickets so that was certainly the cause. We left that to the police – I’m not better informed than you. I just had to speculate on if the game was not played, what would we do.”
Wenger then said he was sure that UEFA would launch an inquiry, and the club were very quick to release a statement this morning pointing out that they had taken every possible precaution to stop this happening, but as I said a few days ago, it would be extremely difficult to stop the Koln fans getting in.
The Arsenal statement read: 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.
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.
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.
One thing that certainly needs to be addressed is the fact that so many Arsenal fans did not use their tickets and were quite happy to sell them to touts or maybe even direct to Koln fans. There were probably more Germans at the game than Arsenal fans!
Where was everybody?