RIOTS THREATEN SPORTING CHAOS

• Fears grow over start of Premier League season
• Eight London matches in danger of being axed
• FA promise refund after England game called off

POLICE will today decide whether London’s Premier League and Football League fixtures are safe to go ahead at the weekend after the rioting ravaging the capital plunged the sporting calendar into chaos.

The Football Association was yesterday forced to call off England’s friendly against Holland, less than 36 hours before 80,000 were due at Wembley for the game, because of concerns over the safety of supporters and players.

Crystal Palace postponed last night’s Carling Cup fixture against Crawley Town while a friendly between Ghana and Nigeria, due to take place at Watford’s Vicarage Road, was also axed because police resources were needed more urgently elsewhere.

The decisions raise further doubts about the viability of the three Premier League season openers – at Tottenham, QPR and Fulham – and five Football League fixtures – at Palace, Millwall, Leyton Orient, Barnet and Dagenham and Redbridge – slated to take place on Saturday.

But in a joint statement released last night, the two leagues deferred a decision on matches in the capital until today, and all but ruled out postponing any matches elsewhere in the country.

“We are in on-going discussions with our London-based clubs, the relevant police forces and statutory authorities, in regard to the staging of the coming weekend’s fixtures in the capital,” read the statement.

“The Metropolitan Police has conveyed to us the dynamic nature of the current situation and with that in mind all parties will review the situation on Thursday and make a further public statement.

“With the information currently available there is no reason to think any matches outside of London will be affected.”

It is understood the final say rests with local police forces, who must decide whether they have adequate resources to ensure sporting events on their patch pass safely.

Transport links are also a concern, with the damage in the Tottenham area last weekend raising doubts over whether key routes to White Hart Lane would be clear for supporters in time for Saturday’s visit of Everton.

The FA, meanwhile, have vowed to refund all tickets for the Holland match, which they hope to reschedule as early next year as possible.

It is understood that the Dutch raised the issue of compensation for the match being cancelled. Honouring the fixture at a later date would minimise the FA’s losses.

FA chairman David Bernstein said they were forced to postpone because limited emergency services resources meant they could not guarantee the safety of spectators.

The traditional player’s pre-match press conference was cancelled, but the squad did attend while FA officials read out a joint statement on their behalf condemning the violence.

“We’re disappointed that tomorrow’s game has been called off but obviously we understand the reasons behind the decision – and support it,” read the statement.

“We’ve all seen the terrible pictures and the most important thing at this time is the safety of the fans and the general public. At this time, the whole squad would like to appeal for calm and an end to the disorder.”

Defender Rio Ferdinand, originally from Peckham, added on Twitter: “England vs Holland game is off, good call. Who wants to see a game of football when our country is in turmoil?”