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Rioting forces England to call off friendly

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By John Mehaffey

LONDON (Reuters) - England on Tuesday called off their international soccer friendly against Netherlands at Wembley on Wednesday after consulting London police struggling to contain rioting and looting on the capital's streets.

A Metropolitan Police statement said fans would need to travel through London, which hosts the Olympic Games next year, at a time when violence had erupted over the past three days.

"This is something we are keen to avoid," the statement said. "We do not need the additional burden of a crowd of 80,000 people on our streets tomorrow night.

"Every officer on duty must be deployed to protect life, our communities and properties."

Tuesday's friendly between Nigeria and Ghana in Watford, north of London, was also called off while the Premier League and Football League are in discussions with London clubs and the police about the coming weekend's fixtures in the city.

"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," a joint league statement said.

"With the information currently available to us there is no reason to think any matches outside of London will be affected."

Masked youths went on a rampage in the north London suburb of Tottenham on Saturday, ransacking shops and setting cars, buses and properties alight following a peaceful protest after a man had been fatally shot by police two days earlier.

The violence spread to other parts of London and to the central city of Birmingham, venue of the third cricket test between England and India starting on Wednesday, as well as Liverpool in the north and Bristol in the south-west.

Football Association (FA) chairman David Bernstein said tickets for the Wembley soccer match would be refunded in full, adding that the FA hoped to stage the match next year.

"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," Bernstein told a news conference.

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk said he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision.

"If you saw the pictures on TV you know it could go wrong," he told reporters.

England cricket captain Andrew Strauss said he had received no hint that the third test against India would be affected although the team had been advised to remain in their hotel.

"We have not been given any indication that the match is not going to go ahead," he told a news conference.

"Our security manager is there for a reason and he has to decide if it is safe for us to play cricket and at the moment he says it's 100 percent safe. We don't feel unsafe."

FIXTURE POSTPONED

Earlier, a third English League Cup soccer fixture involving a London club scheduled for Tuesday was postponed after consultation with police.

Crystal Palace's match against Crawley Town will be rescheduled after West Ham United's game against Aldershot and Charlton Athletic's clash with Reading were postponed on Monday.

Less than a year out from the Olympics, the riots have also affected Hackney in east London, one of the host boroughs.

The International Olympic Committee said the Games' chief co-ordinator Denis Oswald was attending a one-day progress review in London on Tuesday. A beach volleyball test event took place at Horse Guards Parade but ended early.

National Olympic Security co-ordinator Chris Allison said public disorder was one of the risks faced by organizers.

"Obviously, in light of the appalling events in London over recent days we will review our planning to ensure that any lessons are identified," he said in a statement.

"But first, we must fully establish the circumstances of what has happened and at this time it is too early to say whether our planning will significantly change."

A 26-year-old man who was shot in a car in Croydon, south of London, was the first fatality of the riots and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh said police were planning for more mass disorder on Tuesday night.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who cut short his annual holiday to fly back home, told reporters 16,000 police would be deployed in London.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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