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Europa League

Cologne apologize but question security at Arsenal, UEFA charges both clubs

As UEFA launched disciplinary proceedings against both clubs after Thursday's fan trouble at the Emirates Stadium, Cologne apologized for some fans' behavior, but also queried decisions from Arsenal and London's police.

FC Cologne on Friday sought to walk quite a tightrope after its traveling fans' behavior dominated the front pages in the UK following the club's away game at Arsenal in London. 

The club apologized to Arsenal for the misbehavior of the rowdiest supporters, while also seeking to distance itself from their actions. Furthermore, Cologne questioned decisions in the run-up to the game, suggesting that Arsenal would have been wise to allocate more away tickets and that London's Metropolitan Police appeared inadequately prepared for the match.

"1. FC Köln would like to unmistakeably make it clear that there is no excuse or justification for the fact that a group of so-called disturbers threatened, insulted, and even attacked stewards and police officers without cause. We distance ourselves from this explicitly," the club said in a statement, adding that the violent fans were "solely responsible" for their actions. "Although 1. FC Köln is not responsible for the acts of these so-called disturbers, we ask our English hosts to accept our apology." 

Arsenal vs 1. FC Koln - Emirates Stadium, London, Britain - September 14, 2017 General view of a big screen inside the stadium displaying information that the match is delayed

The game ultimately started an hour later than scheduled

An estimated 20,000 Cologne fans traveled to London - even though only 2,900 away tickets were formally sanctioned - and the ensuing problems at the turnstiles led to a one-hour delay to the game's start. 

Read more:  Cologne fans descend on London for return to European football

UEFA has charged both clubs and intends to deal with both cases on September 21. Cologne fans are accused of causing crowd disturbances, setting off pyrotechnics, throwing objects and causing damage to property. Footage of some fans storming the turnstiles after a long wait for entry into the stadium became the most obvious example of this. The charge against Arsenal pertains to a blocked stairwell in the away supporters' end.

Questioning Arsenal and the Metropolitan Police

Cologne's statement was highly critical, however, of Arsenal's decision to refuse Cologne's request for a larger allocation than UEFA's required quota - 5 percent of a stadium's capacity, and around 2,900 seats in the case of Thursday's game at the Emirates Stadium. 

UEFA Europa League 2017/18 | FC Arsenal vs. 1. FC Köln | Sicherheit, Fans (Reuters/Action Images/J. Sibley)

Images of police and fans in close quarters dominated the British front pages on Friday

"Due to the enormous demand for tickets, it would have been sensible, not least for security reasons, to allow more than the allocated five percent of stadium capacity to guest fans. It was apparent that thousands of people from Cologne would seek to avoid the restrictions and get tickets in every way possible," the club's statement said. 

The club also argued that "despite the tremendous experience of both the London security forces and Arsenal," the organizers were not adequately preprared for the game. "In our view, the security concept and communication seemed inadequate and the police force too small." 

The Billy Goats also stressed that they were "proud" that so many people from Cologne wanted to travel for their first match in European competition in 25 years. 

Read more:  Opinion: Stop blaming Cologne fans for others' mistakes

Arsenal pledges 'full review,' police report five arrests

North London club Arsenal, meanwhile, said that it had launced a "full review into the circumstances surrounding the game and will ensure that any lessons that can be learned are used in the future." 

Arsenal said it was "very disappointing" that touts had sold thousands of Arsenal-fan tickets to Cologne supporters, often at highly inflated prices. 

Fußball UEFA Europa League Arsenal - 1. FC Köln (Reuters/Action Images/J. Sibley)

On the pitch, Arsenal's quality told in the second half

Manager Arsene Wenger had said he was surprised the game ultimately went ahead, given the security consciousness of modern policing methods. "We live in a society of 100 percent 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 and there was no aggravation."

The solution reached, in the end, was to defy typical British rules on stadium segregation (which are particularly strict but not always perfectly enforced) and allow thousands of Cologne fans with valid tickets for Arsenal supporter areas to enter the ground. Cologne called this the "correct" decision: "Finally, the course of the match showed that the mixing of home and away fans did not constitute a safety risk for this match."

London's Metropolitan Police said that five arrests were made in connection with the unrest outside the Emirates Stadium on Thursday. It also said that three officers were injured in clashes, but none of them seriously. 

On the pitch, favorites Arsenal overturned an early deficit with three second half goals, to win 3-1.

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