Tottenham’s home match against Everton on the opening day of the English Premier League soccer season was postponed because of this week’s rioting in London.
The unrest started after police shot a man near Spurs’ White Hart Lane stadium in north London, spreading to other parts of the capital and then throughout England. The looting forced postponement of last night’s exhibition match between England and the Netherlands at Wembley Stadium.
Richard Scudamore, the chief executive officer of the Premier League, said the area around the stadium couldn’t be cleaned up quickly enough to ensure the game in two days could go on in safe conditions.
“Tottenham High Road is a crime scene,” Scudamore said in an interview in central London. “The police won’t be handing that back to the local council until Friday night and it’s just not possible to get the place put back together in a decent enough shape to host a football match there.”
The Premier League said this weekend’s other nine games are still on. Cheltenham’s match against Swindon in League Two has been postponed. The Football League, made up of the three divisions below the Premier League, said that all of its games in London will be played this weekend.
Tottenham defender Michael Dawson said he was disappointed but understood the need to postpone the match, the first to be called off for social unrest since the league started in 1992.
“We’ve worked for six weeks to try and get fit and unfortunately the first game is not going to be happening,” Dawson said. “The most important thing is the safety, the police wouldn’t have called it off too lightly.”
Chelsea’s John Terry, who was to captain England against Holland last night, called for calm.
“We’ve seen the England game and now the Spurs game called off,” Terry said in an interview. “Looking at the images on T.V. it’s quite devastating to see what’s happening. Hopefully a lot more games can go ahead and we can get firing with the season which is what everyone wants to see.”
The Premier League is the richest in soccer, and is broadcast in more countries than any other domestic championship. Scenes of looting and arson on the streets that started in Tottenham on Aug. 6 before spreading to other parts of the country have also been beamed around the world.
“Clearly you can’t send images like this around the world and people not be shocked by it,” Scudamore said. “People look to this country for a civilized society, look at many things in this country as being good, they look at our democracy, the way we operate and therefore it can’t be good that these scenes are going around the world.”
The Football Association estimated a crowd of 70,000 would travel to Wembley for the game with the Netherlands. Dutch players and supporters found out the news as they prepared to check in bags for the flight to London a day before the match.
“I was dreadfully disappointed about the international match,” F.A. Chairman David Bernstein said. “People were coming over from Holland for the game but we had no choice at all. Public safety has to come first.”
The only other league game for the weekend to be called off so far has been Telford United’s home match with Luton in the fifth-division Blue Square Bet Premier league. Telford said in a statement on its website that West Mercia Police requested the postponement.
“Telford United, Luton Town and the Football Conference were left with little option but to agree with the request due to the unprecedented local and national circumstances,” the statement read.