SUNDAY’S derby clash is classified as the highest level of risk by police and club safety bosses.
SAFC Head of Safety and Security Paul Weir is in overall charge of ensuring the match itself passes off without incident.
Games were classified as A, for the lowest risk, to C, with tomorrow’s game ranked as C IR - for increased risk, he explained.
“We hold a debriefing after each game and we learn from the match,” he said. “And since the fixture list came out, we have been holding talks with Northumbria Police, British Transport Police, transport providers, the two clubs and the local authority.”
Sunderland’s 3-0 win at St James’s Park last season was marred by post-match violence but there had been no major disorder at the Wearside game since 2001.
“A lot of the problems that happened after the game in April were not caused by people who had been in the ground – they were caused by people who had been watching in pubs and come down to have a bit of sport,” said Mr Weir.
“Most people that come to the stadium are law-abiding. They had paid their money, they come to watch the game, to enjoy the spectacle.
“Things might get tense, there may be some choice banter between the fans but they are not there to have a fight.”
Black Cats and Magpies fans will both be hoping their team runs out as convincing winners, but as far as those in charge of safety were concerned close call was the most desirable outcome. The scale of Sunderland’s win in April had been a major cause of what followed: “The single biggest factor, as always, is going to be the result,” said Mr Weir.
“If it is a close-run thing, both teams have played fairly well, then most people go home happy.”