FOOTBALL fans are coming together ahead of this month’s Tyne and Wear derby to call for “passion not poison.”
Both Sunderland and Newcastle supporters will meet next week in a bid to defuse traditional hostilities.
A campaign – A Derby To Be Proud Of – will see fans, supporters’ groups, and fanzines come together seeking to maintain the white-hot derby atmosphere, without the violence.
Last season fans of both teams stood side-by-side to oppose “bubble match” travel restrictions imposed by Northumbria Police but later overturned.
That fan solidarity continued following the deaths of Newcastle United fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney on Flight MH17.
A fundraising page started by Sunderland fan Gary Ferguson raised £33,618.
Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Federation, said: “This isn’t about a happy-clappy, mutual love-in. Fans want to keep the derby day atmosphere as intense and passionate, even hostile, as ever. But it’s entirely possible to do that while rejecting violence, and it’s clear that’s the view of the overwhelming majority of supporters.
“Fans from both sides asked the FSF to help bring together the unique coalition which successfully overturned last year’s ‘bubble match’ restrictions, and this is a continuation of that work.
“Let’s keep the passion, but lose the poison.”
“A Derby To Be Proud Of” is supported by A Love Supreme, Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust, NUFC Fans United, nufc.com, Ready To Go, Roker Report, Seventy3, The Mag, True Faith, and Wise Men Say.
While the campaign was instigated by fans of both clubs, it also has the support of Sunderland AFC, Newcastle United and Northumbria Police.
A launch event will be held at The Bridge Hotel, in Newcastle on Tuesday featuring ex-players Kevin Ball and Steve Howey, who will talk about their derby day experiences.
A Derby To Be Proud Of takes place at 7pm.
Entry is free but spaces are extremely limited. If anyone would like to attend, they should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0330 44 000 44.