Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United have issued a joint statement attacking police over kick-off times for the Tyne Wear derby.
The Black Cats and Newcastle United have hit out at Northumbria Police over their refusal to allow late afternoon or early evening kick-offs for the derby.
Both clubs released the joint statement on their official websites to insist they will no longer be dictated to by the police about kick-off times.
Sunderland has now scrapped an unpopular “bubble” travel arrangement which forced fans with match tickets for the Tyne Wear derby at St James’ Park on Saturday, February 1, to go to the game on buses organised to the club.
After fans hit out at the bubble transport plans, Northumbria Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Jo Farrell, said: “Northumbria Police cannot direct changes to kick off times or control the issue of tickets and how supporters travel to matches.
“The condition of ticketing and transportation to St James’ Park is a contractual issue between the club and supporters and is not something Northumbria Police is involved in.
“We cannot and will not direct supporters on how they travel to the game.”
The two clubs say they are both “surprised and disappointed” with the police statement.
They said: “Over a number of years both clubs have made repeated representations to Northumbria Police to try and reach agreement over kick off times to enable a traditional 3pm kick off or later to enable broadcasters to give the game consideration in the majority of their time slots for live coverage.
“Police forces up and down the country have been able to police high-profile derby matches for years.”
However, they went on to say: “In recent years Northumbria Police has rejected every request made by the clubs for later kick-off slots including Saturday 5.30pm, Sunday 4pm and Monday 8pm.
“Both clubs have evidence in the form of considerable written correspondence between Northumbria Police, the Premier League and the clubs which contradicts their statement of yesterday.”
The clubs say the police force has said it would not be prepared to police the evening fixtures requested previously or derby matches with kick-off times later than 1.30pm.
In their joint statement the clubs said: “For Northumbria Police therefore to issue a statement stating that they do not direct changes to kick-off times is quite frankly false and absurd - and conflicts with the respectful and responsible manner in which both Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC have engaged with the police over many years with regard to the derby fixture.
“In light of Northumbria Police’s latest statement, Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC will now inform the Premier League that all future fixtures between the two clubs will be available for kick-off times to suit the clubs, the league and their broadcast partners, if applicable, and will expect Northumbria Police to police these games, especially given the considerable costs both clubs incur for such special police services.”