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Emirates disorder: Police ‘should have warned council about the thousands of FC Koln fans heading to Islington’

PUBLISHED: 18:03 15 September 2017 | UPDATED: 18:08 15 September 2017

Crowds block Highbury Corner this afternoon. Picture: TfL Bus Alerts/@TfLBusAlerts

Crowds block Highbury Corner this afternoon. Picture: TfL Bus Alerts/@TfLBusAlerts

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Islington’s council leader has questioned why police did not know, or tell the council about, the huge number of travelling FC Koln fans coming to The Emirates last night.

Islington Council leader Cllr Richard Watts: 'Why wasn't the council told?' Picture: Ellie HoskinsIslington Council leader Cllr Richard Watts: 'Why wasn't the council told?' Picture: Ellie Hoskins

Cllr Richard Watts said the town hall was not warned about the scale of the problems ahead of the Europa League game.

“This number of travelling fans should have been spotted by the people at the Met who get intelligence on travelling football fans,” he told the Gazette this afternoon.

“It happened when Dortmund played here years ago and it was spotted. There’s a question to ask about what policing plan was in place – how on earth was it not policed in a way previous matches with this level of away fan interest were?”

Asked who should take responsibility for the disorder, he added: “I’m told the matchday people handled a very difficult situation very well. I don’t know whether it’s Arsenal or the police’s job to know whether there’s significantly more fans travelling.

Away fans blocking Highbury Corner on Thursday afternoon. Picture: Emily Bawtree/TwitterAway fans blocking Highbury Corner on Thursday afternoon. Picture: Emily Bawtree/Twitter

“Council staff have done a great job getting it cleaned up. Highbury Fields was a complete mess last night and it was clean by 9am.

“Who picks up the tab for this kind of thing?

“The majority of Koln fans had clearly been drinking heavily but their behaviour was exuberant not violent. They were enjoying a trip to London. They had drunk most of their body weight in lager.”

The crowd – estimated to be between 10,000 and 20,000 people – surged out of Highbury and Islington Tube station from about 3.20pm yesterday, forcing Transport for London to shut the A1 for an hour. Many decamped to Highbury Fields, where neighbours are about to launch legal action to try and stop people having barbecues – so didn’t entirely welcomed thousands of unexpected Cologne visitors. One complained that his car had been “vandalised” with stickers and others said there was broken glass in the ground where children played.

FC Koln fans and police outside the stadium prior to the Europa League match at The Emirates. Picture: Nick Potts/PA WireFC Koln fans and police outside the stadium prior to the Europa League match at The Emirates. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire

London Assembly Member and Green Highbury East councillor Caroline Russell has previously called for Drayton Park, which is much closer to the stadium, to receive investment so it can open on matchdays and ease the burden at Highbury.

“We’ve said for a long time it’s a great pity Drayton Park wasn’t properly funded to cope with matchday traffic,” added Cllr Watts. “We need to look at it again.”

He also vowed: “We will convene a meeting of the safety advisory group.”

Cllr Russell’s fellow Assembly Member Andrew Didsmore (Lab) has previously called for football clubs to pick up more of the tab for policing outside matches. Almost all of the £7million cost last year was borne by the Met itself.

Police with dogs keep watch the FC Koln fans. Picture: Nick Potts/PA WirePolice with dogs keep watch the FC Koln fans. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire

“There needs to be some sort of investigation,” he told the Gazette this afternoon. “How do 20,000 German fans turn up without anyone knowing? They didn’t turn up on a magic carpet.

“And what increases the cost is bringing police in unexpectedly.

“The mayor [of London] is now taking on the issue. [Premier League executive chairman] Richard Scudamore just said ‘we aren’t paying’ because they pay their share of taxes. So what? If you have a business you pay for commercial waste costs on top of rates. If you cause additional costs you should meet them.

“The Met thinks the clubs should pay; the mayor thinks they should. If football was not a huge multi-million-pound business they may have a case, or if it was lower league clubs – but the Premier League is a different ball game.”

FC Koln fans outside The White Swan pub in Upper Street before the game. Picture: Nick Potts/PA WireFC Koln fans outside The White Swan pub in Upper Street before the game. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire

A Met spokesman declined to comment on Cllr Watts’ criticism of police intelligence, but did say: “A flexible policing plan was in place and additional officers and police dog units were deployed to the area to respond to the disorder.”

He added: “The Met will work closely with the management, security at Arsenal and UEFA, to establish how away fans were able to access the Arsenal seating.”

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