Newcastle slam FA for cancelling friendly as Sunderland get the nod
14 July 2009 10:22
Newcastle have reacted with dismay after being told by the Football Association that they cannot proceed with a friendly against Dutch side FC Utrecht at the end of the month.
The Magpies, preparing for life in the Coca-Cola Championship after suffering final-day relegation from the top flight last season, had been due to contest the fixture on July 26 but that date clashed with north-east rivals Sunderland's involvement in the annual Amsterdam Tournament.
With both clubs due to be playing matches on the same day just 30 miles apart, fears were raised that violence could break out between rival fans on foreign soil.
Amsterdam's mayor, Job Cohen, yesterday called for Sunderland to be banned from the tournament in an effort to head off the threat of violence, but the English FA last night came down on the side of Sunderland, whose preparations for the event at the Amsterdam ArenA are at an advanced stage.
Tickets have already gone on sale for Sunderland's matches against Benfica and Atletico Madrid on July 24 and 26, while the FA also pointed to the fact that the Black Cats' application to travel to Holland was put forward before Newcastle's.
Sunderland fans have also made travel arrangements while tickets for Newcastle's match with Utrecht had not gone on sale at the time of the FA's decision.
The news is a further blow for Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, who has still not found a buyer for the club despite increasing pressure from both players and fans to find a resolution that will see a full-time manager appointed.
'Newcastle United wish to place on record that they are extremely disappointed by this decision, especially given the fact that on 30 June 2009, the Football Association had approved their application to play in Utrecht, this following discussions with the Dutch FA, Dutch Police, and our own UK Football Policing Unit,' read a club statement.
'The club now finds itself with its pre-season programme of games disrupted and in the unenviable position of trying to organise another game over that weekend in a very short space of time.
'It should be noted also that Newcastle United had already organised flights and hotel accommodation for its travelling party for the game in Holland.
'Newcastle United would like to apologise to its supporters for this situation, particularly those that may have already made travel arrangements, however it is clearly a matter that is completely out of its own control.'
An FA statement confirming the news revealed the decision had not been taken lightly. 'Following conversations with the KNVB [the Dutch FA] and the Mayor of Amsterdam's office, The FA has reluctantly withdrawn permission for Newcastle United to play a friendly with Utrecht on Sunday 26 July,' the FA statement read.
'Following concerns raised by the Mayor of Amsterdam, it became clear that only one of the two teams would be able to travel to Holland and The FA actively sought to resolve the situation.'
FC Utrecht chairman Jan Willem van Dop was left seething by the decision. He told his club's website: 'We've been busy organising this match since June 3. The city and police were involved from the start in the safety measures and they had good contact with their English colleagues.
'On June 30 we even received a fax from the FA in which they told us that they had spoken with the KNVB and given Newcastle United permission to travel to Utrecht.
'After that the city of Amsterdam went into action and the FA withdrew their permission. According to agreements, we didn't sell any tickets to Newcastle fans.
'The organisers of the Amsterdam Tournament did sell tickets to the Sunderland fans and now say they can't take that back. That's really warped. We have a very bad taste in our mouths because of this.'