Tyne-Wear Derby: Northumbria Police will not escort Sunderland supporters to St James Park
Police chiefs have announced plans to reduce policing in the Tyne-Wear derby between Newcastle United and Sunderland on Sunday.
The two sets off fans will be able to mix before the match after Northumbria Police have said that Sunderland supporters will not be escorted from Central Station.
The tense rivalry between the Toon army and their rivals has always meant there has been a heavy police presence when the two teams meet.
Police are encouraging Sunderland supporters to make use of the free coaches from the Stadium of Light, or to use designated trains.
Despite history between the two sets of fans, Chief Supt Neill told Chronicle Live: “My message to the fans is this – It’s your derby. These are always fantastic occasions and it’s going to be even more so this year.
“It is 21 December, people are going to be excited about Christmas, and people will be excited for the football match and I want that excitement to really come through on the day and for it to be a really positive experience for everyone, that’s the ethos of the whole operation.”
Relationships between Newcastle United and Sunderland fans seem to have improved after Sunderland supporters raised over £20,000 in memory of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, two Newcastle fans who were killed in the MH17 crash.
However, the 2013 Tyne-Wear derby will be remembered for the wrong reasons after a police horse was attacked by a Newcastle supporter when violence erupted outside St James’ Park after a defeat to their rivals, Sunderland.
“The fans want the passion of the derby but some of the things that have happened in previous years now need to be consigned to history. The disorder of 2013 reflected badly on everybody concerned,” said Chief Supt Neill.
“This is about two groups of passionate supporters coming together. Having the sheer number of such passionate football fans in such close proximity is a great thing to celebrate.”
The two sides meet on 21 December 2014 in a 1:30pm kick off.