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England friendly falls victim to riots

Football Association chairman David Bernstein said he was "incredibly sad" to call off England's friendly...

Firemen douse the charred remains of the Reeves furniture store in Croydon, south of London, on August 9, 2011. Picture: AFP

Football Association chairman David Bernstein said he was "incredibly sad" to call off <country-region w:st="on">England</country-region>'s friendly against <place w:st="on"><country-region w:st="on">Netherlands</country-region> at Wembley on Wednesday because of the widespread rioting and looting in the capital.

<country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">England</country-region>'s players also issued a statement, saying: "We have all seen the terrible pictures on television 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 this disorder."

Bernstein said the decision to postpone the fixture was taken after discussions with the government, police and local council.

"We have received clear advice that due to the sporadic and widespread nature of the unrest there are significant concerns in relation to the available emergency service resource to safely police the fixture," he told a news conference.

"In light of these concerns ... the authorities have advised us that under the terms of our safety certificate we are unable to host the fixture or guarantee the safety of visiting supporters or the teams.

"The Dutch FA (KNVB) were informed of the decision prior to their scheduled departure from <city w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Holland and we thank them for their co-operation and support during this difficult period," Bernstein added.

A number of Tuesday's English League Cup fixtures, including West Ham United's game against <placename w:st="on">Aldershot<placetype w:st="on">Town and Charlton Athletic's match with <city w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Reading, have also been cancelled.

CRISIS TALKS

Prime Minister David Cameron is to hold crisis talks later on Tuesday after three nights of riots, looting and arson by masked, hooded youths wrecked shopping streets in many parts of <city w:st="on"><place w:st="on">London and spread to other cities across the country.

The riots have spread to the midlands city of <city w:st="on">Birmingham, where <country-region w:st="on">England</country-region>'s cricketers play <country-region w:st="on">India</country-region> in the third test starting on Wednesday, as well as Liverpool and <city w:st="on"><place w:st="on">Bristol.

Bernstein was hopeful <country-region w:st="on"><place w:st="on">England</country-region>'s game with the Dutch would be staged next year and said fans would be offered a full refund on their tickets.

"I spoke to the president of the Dutch FA this morning and he was totally understanding of the situation," Bernstein said.

"I'm incredibly sad. Thousands of supporters would have been at the match and millions would have been watching on television and it's terribly sad that a major sports event of this sort has to be cancelled in this way.

"But we have to put matters of security first and we had no choice in this situation. Money is not the issue here, much more important things are happening -- ordinary people are losing their businesses and homes."

KNVB director Bert van Oostveen was quoted as saying his organisation would lose millions of euros in television rights.

"Together with the English FA we will look for a decent and elegant solution," he told Dutch media.