Terrible message if games cancelled - Bernie Ecclestone

By Dan RoanBBC sports news correspondent

QPR owner Bernie Ecclestone has said it would send "a terrible message" if Premier League matches were cancelled because of riots.

A decision on whether to postpone any of the three fixtures in London this weekend will be made on Thursday.

QPR play Bolton at Loftus Road on Saturday and Ecclestone is confident the game will go ahead.

"It [postponing matches] would send a terrible message to the rest of the world," he told BBC Sport.

When asked if he feared his team's game might fall victim to the rioting, Ecclestone commented: "I've been told no. I don't think there'll be a threat to QPR. I've spoken to people at the club who seemed quite confident it will go ahead.

"The police seem to have managed to contain the things that have been going on. But there's not much stuff that people can loot at a match so it won't attract the kind of people that have been active in the last few days."

Several football fixtures have already been affected by the disturbances, including England's friendly against the Netherlands at Wembley, a cancellation Ecclestone described as "a disaster".

On Tuesday the Premier League and Football League issued a which said "there is no reason to think any matches outside of London will be affected".

However, trouble continued to spread from London on Tuesday night, and with police resources stretched, doubt has been cast on whether safety certificates will be issued for games.

There are nine league matches in the capital this weekend. As well as the one at QPR, Spurs host Everton and Aston Villa travel to Fulham.

Football League games at risk are Crystal Palace v Burnley, Millwall v Nottingham Forest, Watford v Derby, Leyton Orient v Tranmere, Barnet v Port Vale and Dagenham and Redbridge v AFC Wimbledon.

Premier League fixtures tend to require police officers inside the ground - paid for by the clubs - and at railway stations and locations where fans are liable to meet - funded by local forces.

With thousands of additional officers brought into the capital in the wake of Monday night's rioting, it may be that clubs will not receive a safety certificate from their local authority, and be forced to postpone.

Association of Chief Police Officers football lead Andy Holt told BBC Sport: "The police service wants to do all it can to ensure Britain returns to business as usual as soon as possible, but we have to risk assess the matches on an individual basis and each club and each chief constable needs to go through that process to determine whether the games go ahead or are called off."

Formula 1 boss Ecclestone had to contend with the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this year following political unrest in the Arab state.

But the billionaire said that the postponement of Premier League matches should not be a decision which the authorities take lightly.

"Would we want to take a risk? It's a difficult decision to make," he said.

"The Premier League is watched everywhere I travel. I always see Manchester United on the TV wherever I am. So it's a very bad message for England, and we're going to have the Olympics soon.

"You imagine if this happened when the Games started. It would be terrible."

Ghana's friendly with Nigeria at Watford's Vicarage Road and the Carling Cup tie between Bristol Rovers and Watford were also postponed at the request of the police, following the decision to call off Tuesday's ties at Charlton, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Bristol City.

The England v Netherlands game was cancelled by the Football Association after meetings with the Metropolitan police and Brent Council because the safety of players and fans could not be guaranteed.

Ecclestone added: "They probably did the right thing. If there was trouble and the police were at Wembley people would have complained. But it's a disaster, obviously."