LONDON – England called off a soccer exhibition Wednesday against the Netherlands because of concerns about player safety amid a wave of rioting and looting across London, which also threatens the staging of Premier League matches this weekend.
The Wembley Stadium match was canceled by The Football Association after the Metropolitan Police struggled to contain a third night of lawlessness in the British capital on Monday.
"There were certain concerns about the protection of players on both sides with the travel in coaches," said FA chairman David Bernstein, who added he believed this is the first time an England match has been canceled because of such circumstances. "We have to put safety and security matters first. I am very sad indeed. This is the only thing we could have done."
An exhibition was called off Tuesday because of a lack of police for the match between Ghana and Nigeria in Watford, which is 20 miles northwest of London.
London's police force has struggled to contain the spiraling violence across the city, but they are preparing to have 16,000 officers on the streets to stop the violence.
"We do not need the additional burden of a crowd of 80,000 people on our streets tomorrow night," a police statement said. "Every officer on duty must be deployed to protect life, our communities and properties."
The Premier League will wait until Thursday to determine whether the three season openers in London can be played on Saturday.
"We are in ongoing discussions with our London-based clubs, the Metropolitan Police and statutory authorities in regard to the staging of the coming weekend's fixtures in the capital," the topflight said in a joint statement with the Football League. "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 at that time.
"With the information currently available to us there is no reason to think any matches outside of London will be affected."
The violence first broke out late Saturday near to Premier League club Tottenham, a low-income district 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 ticket office at White Hart Lane was damaged before its match against Everton on Saturday.
Four League Cup matches scheduled for Tuesday were called off. West Ham was due to host Aldershot in east London, while in the south, Charlton's match against Reading and Crystal Palace's fixture against Crawley also were postponed.
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.
The England exhibition was abandoned before the Dutch team flew to England on Tuesday morning. Around 70,000 tickets had already been sold, but the FA said the cost would be refunded.
There could be a financial hit for the FA, though, if the match is not rearranged for next year to regain any losses.
"We will look at money and insurance issues further down the way," Bernstein said.
England team managing director Adrian Bevington, who sat alongside Bernstein at a news conference in front of the squad, spoke for the team.
"We are disappointed that tomorrow's game will be called off, but obviously we understand the reasons behind the decision and we support it," Bevington said. "We've all seen the terrible pictures on the 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 the disorder which has been ongoing."
Groups of young people rampaged for a third straight night in London on Monday, setting buildings, vehicles and garbage cans alight, looting stores and pelting police officers with bottles and fireworks.
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. Onlookers described the scene as resembling a conflict zone.
Ferdinand described the escalating violence as "madness" and questioned whether soldiers should be put on the streets.
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."
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