Arsenal’s opening Europa League group match was marred by unsavoury scenes in and outside Emirates Stadium on Thursday night after Cologne’s raucous away supporters attempted to storm the home section.
Cologne’s reason for so many supporters travelling to London is the fact that it brings to an end 25 years away from European competition. Estimates of over 20,000 of the club’s supporters made the trip to the capital despite only having an away allocation of 2,900, and it is understood that several hundred ticketless supporters turned up outside the ground amid scuffles with police and stewards.
Met Police say extra officers were deployed at Emirates as part of a policing plan in place at the game but questions need to be asked why so many ticketless fans were able to get in such close proximity to the stadium shortly before kick-off.
The impressive support from some of Germany’s most diehard fans could be seen throughout the afternoon in central London as thousands of fans marched the streets singing their club anthems without causing any notable trouble.
Cologne fans infamously stormed the Rheinenergiestadion pitch in 2012 after their side lost 4-1 to Bayern Munich and were relegated from the Bundesliga. They threw smoke bombs, lit flares and caused chaos on that occasion – UEFA can count themselves lucky that this fixture provided more of a celebratory tone than five years ago.
But as kick-off approached it became apparent that many of those supporters were not going to take no for an answer as some made their way through the home turnstiles and were seen jumping over barriers as stewards tried to stop them.
Questions will be asked about how those supporters were able to infiltrate an entire section of the stadium, with an estimated 4,500 fans inside the Emirates as the match kicked off. Quite how so many were able to get their hands on ticket, whether through legal means or via touts outside, is unknown, but it clearly needs investigating so a repeat can be avoided.
Trouble in the away end at Emirates Stadium Posted by Chris Wheatley on Thursday, 14 September 2017
Season ticket holding home supporters were advised to move to the other end of the stadium, with the Clock End engulfed with German support, glowing in the red smoke of the various flares being set off. Dog units and riot police are far from common place inside English stadia, and the fact such measures were required suggests fears were greater than maybe some were letting on.
As Cologne went up a goal through an excellent goal from Jhon Cordoba, pockets of Cologne fans could be seen celebrating in the home end much to the Arsenal supporters anger. Some were later removed while others were mildly abused by their Gunners counterparts. Arsenal went on to win 3-1 despite the early deficit.
It is completely understandable that Cologne would want an increased allocation for a game which means the world to their supporters, yet you cannot help thinking the situation should have been managed much better by the football authority who organised the match - UEFA.
There would have been huge disappointments for many of the young families who were forced to leave the game due to the delayed kick off through fear of the situation escalating, and UEFA need to ensure that a repeat of the farcical scenes in north London do not happen again.