Arsenal fan safety in Russia 'top priority' for club after CSKA Moscow Europa League quarter-final draw

Mark Mann-Bryans
Evening Standard
Arsenal FC via Getty Images
Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal insist they will prioritise the safety of their supporters after being drawn to play CSKA Moscow in the Europa League.

The tie comes against the backdrop of heightened diplomatic tensions between the British government and the Kremlin over the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in Salisbury earlier this month.

The Gunners will host the first leg of the quarter-final tie on April 5 before travelling to the Russian capital on April 12 for the return game.

There have been plenty of calls in recent days for England to boycott this summer's World Cup in Russia and similar opinions on Arsenal's travels can be expected.

Arsenal beat AC Milan 5-1 on aggregate to make the last eight, with Friday's draw pitting them against CSKA - who had come from behind to knock Lyon out.

The trip to Moscow will now be under scrutiny until the tie begins, with Arsenal wanting to make sure everything is in place to provide a safe environment.

"The safety of our fans is always a top priority for us and we will be working with the relevant authorities in London and Moscow in preparation for the game," a club spokesman told Press Association Sport.

Arsenal have also encouraged their supporters to follow advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before travelling.

A statement on Arsenal's official website read: "Supporters planning to go to our Europa League quarter-final away to CSKA Moscow on Thursday, April 12 should be aware of the following travel advice, from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

"Due to heightened political tensions between the UK and Russia, you should be aware of the possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment at this time; you're advised to remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and avoid commenting publicly on political developments.

"While the British Embassy in Moscow is not aware of any increased difficulties for British people travelling in Russia at this time, you should follow the security and political situation closely and keep up to date with this travel advice."

Meanwhile, a leading fan group has promised to liaise closely with the club ahead of what Arsenal Independent Supporters Association chair Lois Langton labelled a "hot potato" of a draw.

"AISA will work with the club to help ensure the safety of those supporters who do plan to travel to Moscow," she told Press Association Sport.

"It's a hot potato of a draw in view of the political stand-off between the UK and Russia at present although no doubt it will inject some hype and tension into this season's Europa League.

"It probably isn't going to be the destination of choice for many supporters and the Foreign Office travel advice will need to be listened to."

CSKA moved to calm any early concerns following the draw.

"We are happy to play Arsenal and don't see any danger for English fans that would like to come to Moscow, we have already played against Manchester United this season in Moscow and everything went well," a club spokesman told Sky Sports News.

Uefa insist it will not get involved as political issues are not covered in its remit as the governing body of the Europa League.

"Uefa is a sports organisation whose aim is to promote and develop football, which can benefit and provide enjoyment for large sections of society," a statement read.

"As a consequence, we are committed to remain politically neutral and will not to get involved in governmental affairs.

"As the case in all our competitions, Uefa has rules regarding safety and security in relation to the organisation of matches and works closely with all clubs and local authorities to ensure all necessary measures are implemented to guarantee safety for all involved."

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