Northumbria Police Chief Superintendent Steve Neill has called on both sets of fans to behave at the Tyne-Wear derby this Sunday.
Newcastle host Sunderland at St James’ Park in a hotly-anticipated clash, and the man in charge of overseeing the peace-keeping operation has warned potential trouble-makers they are ‘not anonymous’.
“Keep the passion but respect the occasion,” he said. “Respect your city, respect your club. Don’t do anything that’s going to bring that into disrepute or potentially cause you issues. Everywhere there’s CCTV – you will be identified and you’ll have to be answerable for your actions which will probably mean arrest, being taken to court and potentially a footballing banning order.”
Both football clubs have invested significantly in acquiring hi-tech security cameras, which Neill feels have proved ‘very effective’ in identifying perpetrators of offences within the football stadium or in the surrounding areas.
“(There has been) a lot of investment by the football clubs which beneficial not just for the police and the clubs, but also for genuine fans, because it’s helping minimise the small minority of people who engage in criminal and bad behaviour at football,” he said.
Sunderland fans who will be going to St James’ Park have been offered a travel alternative.
Having engaged in dialogue with fans’ engagement groups, the police have offered the supporters more flexibility with coaches set to depart from the Sunderland city centre rather than the Stadium of Light. Some coaches will even travel to Tyneside without a police escort.
“We sit down with supporters from both clubs and we talk about how we’ve policed and we get their feedback,” he said. “Previously you had one option – all you could do is get on a coach and come through from the Stadium of Light. What supporters have said to us is they want some greater flexibility. So instead of having one coach option, you now got four so I think that demonstrates we’re listening to what fans are telling us and we’re developing the operation to make things as pleasurable for people coming through to Newcastle.”