Football League chairman warns games will be called off if riots continue
Published 12:53 10/08/11 By MirrorFootball
Football League chairman Greg Clarke has warned matches will be postponed this weekend if police resources are needed elsewhere to combat the riots sweeping the country as tonight's Carling Cup tie between Bristol Rovers and Watford was called off.
The game was postponed on the request of police and becomes the fifth cup game to have been postponed in the wake of the disorder that has been ongoing for four nights.
It followed yesterday's cancellation of the scheduled friendly between England and Holland at Wembley in addition to last night's clash between Ghana and Nigeria in Watford as well as four Carling Cup ties, after civil unrest first hit London on Sunday before spreading to other cities around the country this week.
A joint Premier League and Football League statement issued yesterday confirmed the prospects for London-based matches would be reviewed tomorrow, adding that: "With the information currently available to us there is no reason to think any matches outside of London will be affected."
But after Manchester, Liverpool and the West Midlands were affected last night, Clarke today stressed the situation could change which was swiftly followed by the news of the postponement of the Bristol Rovers game.
"The police have to make these calls," he told Sky Sports News. "If they feel they have more important things to do than send officers to football grounds, we will support that decision.
"Our priority is to make sure the police are out there dealing with unrest on the streets. We want to keep our games going ahead but that is a secondary priority.
"We have to support the police and the government in making the streets safe, then after that we can think about 'let's get our football games going ahead'.
"If they need to move police away from football games, we will cancel those football games."
Clarke expects any disruption to the league programme to be short-lived, adding: "We don't believe the situation will go on much longer, history tells us these things tend to peter out and we will make sure football games can go ahead as and when.
"We will make those decisions as and when and will have conversations with the police on a case-by-case basis. If there is civil disobedience in an area and there are football matches scheduled in that area, we will review the situation minute-by-minute with the police.
"I wouldn't over-emphasise the number of games we could potentially lose. I don't want to talk up the sense of hysteria.
"I don't know, none of us do, what will happen tonight and the night after that and the night after that. These things tend to peter out and we hope that when they do we can go back to normal.
"Our priorities have to be ensuring safety on our streets and when that is ensured - in the short term, as I'm sure it will be - football will carry on."