England called off today’s soccer friendly against the Netherlands at Wembley Stadium amid the wave of rioting and looting across London.
The Football Association made the decision yesterday morning after talks with the British government and the Metropolitan Police, who struggled to contain a third night of unrest in the British capital.
“It is with regret that tomorrow’s international fixture with Holland at Wembley has been called off,” the Football Association said in a brief statement.
About 70,000 tickets had already been sold for the match in north London, which was abandoned before the Dutch team flew to England yesterday morning.
“The disturbances in London are such that all available police capacity is being reserved for that,” the Dutch soccer association said in a statement. “Given that a large event such as an international match at Wembley requires policing, it has been decided not to let it be played.”
In London, groups of young people rampaged for a third straight night.
In the Peckham district of south London where England defender Rio Ferdinand grew up, a building was set ablaze along with a bus — which was not carrying passengers.
Ferdinand, who watched the violence unfold on television at the England team hotel, said on Twitter that it was a “good call” to cancel the match.
“Who wants to see a game of football when our country is in turmoil,” Ferdinand wrote.
England teammate Wayne Rooney appealed for an end to the violence.
“These riots are nuts why would people do this to there [sic] own country. Own city,” the striker wrote on Twitter. “This is embarrassing for our country. Stop please.”
Four League Cup matches scheduled for yesterday were also called off. West Ham, which was due to host Aldershot, said police told the east London club that “all major public events in London were to be rearranged.”
The clashes with police also spread beyond London for the first time on Monday night, leading to Bristol City’s League Cup match against Swindon being called off.
Violence first broke out late on Saturday in the low-income district of Tottenham in north London, where outraged protesters demonstrated against the fatal police shooting of man who was gunned down in disputed circumstances on Thursday.
Tottenham’s soccer club is now working to make sure that its Premier League opener against Everton on Saturday can go still go ahead despite damage to a ticket office at White Hart Lane.
Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it had confidence in the British authorities as organizers in London, which is to host next year’s Games, sought to maintain a business-as-usual attitude yesterday, going ahead with a series of competitions to prepare for the Games.
A women’s beach volleyball tournament began as scheduled at Horse Guards Parade.
The competition is a test event for the Olympic tournament that will be played next year.
Other scheduled test events this week include a cycling road race that will go through the streets of London on Sunday and a marathon swimming competition at Hyde Park on Saturday.
“Security at the Olympic Games is a top priority for the IOC,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “It is, however, directly handled by the local authorities, as they know best what is appropriate and proportionate. We are confident they will do a good job in this domain.”