A GIANT metal wall to separate rival derby day fans is set to be built at the Stadium of Light.
In a first for a Premiership match, the 8ft-high temporary barrier will ensure Sunderland and Newcastle supporters do not clash before or after Sunday’s game.
The structure, replacing the usual human wall of police officers, not only separates opposing fans, but means they will be unable to see each other on their way in and out of the game.
Officers say the new cordon system, located next to the entrance to the south stand, will play a major role in improving safety on the day.
The plans have received a mixed reaction from fans.
Martyn McFadden, editor of A Love Supreme fanzine, whose offices are just yards from the Stadium of Light, said: “At least I won’t have to look at ugly Newcastle fans on the way to the game.”
I’ve noticed the barriers when I’ve been coming in to work. The police have their own reasons for employing the barriers which is fair enough.
“To me it seems a bit Draconian but obviously if it stops people getting injured it’s worth it.”
Chief Superintendent Rachel Kearton, of Sunderland Area Command, said: “These barriers are being used first of all for the purpose of separating the two groups of people.
“Also, they are a much better use of resources.
“They have been used in other parts of the country such as Swansea and Cardiff and have worked successfully.”
The barriers are also equipped with electronic signs and a public address system, which police say will help them keep fans informed.
Chf Supt Kearton added: “We’d encourage fans to give us any feedback as to what they think of them.
“I’ve seen them in action and they help to direct people to the area in which they are going.
“I think fans will find it helpful.”
Other fans have reservations about the plans.
SAFC fan Kevin Moeliker, 22, from Jarrow, said: “I don’t really think it’s necessary.
“The police usually have a good handle on these things and I can’t remember any trouble from the last derby here.
“There’s usually a big line of police officers separating them anyway so they can keep a lid on it.”
Amanda Jacks, spokeswoman for the Football Supporters’ Federation, said: “As we’ve yet to see this system in action we can’t comment on it specifically although we’re interested in anything which improves match days and doesn’t prevent supporters enjoying their day.
“We’re looking forward to a good game of football at which we’re sure the overwhelming majority of fans will behave themselves.”
Police are also spending the run-up to the game visiting 500 licensed premises on Wearside to remind them of their responsibilities to drinkers.
Officers will be carrying out patrols from 7am onwards on derby day.
Chf Supt Kearton said: “We’ve been engaging with licensees and have had a very positive response.
“I would remind licensees of their responsibilities, such as not opening early without the appropriate arrangements in place.”
•Travel plans for Sunday’s game, turn to p11.