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Tottenham condemn Dortmund police use of pepper spray on fans

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DORTMUND -- Tottenham Hotspur have said it was "completely unnecessary and unacceptable" for police to use pepper spray on fans visiting Borussia Dortmund on Thursday and accused the authorities of creating "a potentially dangerous situation."

Seventeen Spurs fans suffered irritation to their eyes after police used pepper spray and batons during a conflict at the Westfalenstadion for the first leg of the teams' Europa League round-of-16 tie, which Dortmund won 3-0.

Approximately 1,000 Spurs fans had gathered at Dortmund's Alter Markt, the city's central square, from midday on Thursday, and a large number had arrived at the stadium just before the kick-off, with a Dortmund police spokesperson telling ESPN FC on Friday that the fine spring weather had encouraged the tourists to stay out in the square.

Officers escorted some groups of Spurs fans to the turnstiles from the train station nearby -- as is common for away supporters attending BVB matches -- but Dortmund police said in a press statement on Thursday night that spectators' late arrival at the ground "led to an exertion of pressure on the gates," which resulted in "some 80 supporters" entering the stadium "uncontrolled."

That prompted the authorities to temporarily close the gates and, after they were reopened, there were "conflicts between visiting fans and security," according to the police statement.

Police said the turnstiles were then closed for a second time, with the assistance of police, "to prevent the uncontrolled entrance of Tottenham supporters."

The statement added: "The police used pepper spray and batons, which resulted in minor injuries to 17 English fans, who all complained of eye irritation.

"One policeman and five security persons were injured because of the measures taken."

A Tottenham spokesperson said in a statement released to ESPN FC that the use of pepper spray was "completely unnecessary and unacceptable" and questioned the decision to escort fans down a different route to the stadium from the station.

"The misdirection of our fans by police along with the closing of turnstiles created a potentially dangerous situation," the spokesperson said.

"We arranged for our fans to meet with officials of Borussia Dortmund immediately after the game. We have also spoken to officials at the club ourselves and they have taken on board our concerns."

And Martin Cloake, co-chair of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust, added: "The chaos at the entrance to the ground was unacceptable and avoidable.

"We met with BVB club officials after the game after THFC set up the meeting and we told the BVB official what we had witnessed. We will be working with the Spurs security team and supporter liaison officer to follow up on that conversation.

"We are asking fans who experienced problems to contact us with details of their experiences and we will make sure the fans' perspective is heard.

"It should be mentioned that many Dortmund fans were caught in the crush too, with many of them helping to prevent further problems and urging their stewards to take some decisions that would help ease the serious crushing.

"Once the conversations between us and BVB have finished, we'll come back with further information."

Michael Kennedy, a Spurs fan attending the match, told ESPN FC that 20 minutes before kick-off he was amid "little pockets of Spurs fans, all chanting, in a mass of Dortmund fans" when "suddenly the gates closed in front of us and it was just a wall of metal fences."

Mr Kennedy, who reached the stadium without a police escort, said: "The police on horses started charging around the front. They didn't really do anything but everyone stopped."

He added that after an announcement in English and German, nothing happened for five or 10 minutes as kick-off neared.

Mr Kennedy said that, after another announcement, "the Dortmund fans starting booing and yelling abuse at police" and added that "only three out of 10" gates were reopened before being closed again.

"Once they finally reopened all the gates and starting letting people in, people were obviously trying to get in as quickly as possible and I saw instances of fans clashing with security," he said. "They were trying to search everyone, fair enough, but by that point people were very frustrated."

Dortmund police said the issue had arisen due to the late arrival of fans at the ground.

"The security at and inside the stadium also exacts its toll for the spectators," Cornelia Weigandt, a Dortmund police spokesperson, told ESPN FC. "They have to arrive in a timely manner to witness the kick-off."

Weigandt asked any Tottenham supporters who witnessed or were the victims of any offence before or after the match to report it to Dortmund police.

At midday on Friday, Borussia Dortmund told ESPN FC that they were investigating the events with "our security and police" and were unable to comment on the matter.