SUNDERLAND’S game against Stoke City a week tomorrow has been rescheduled for a second time – with the match now starting ahead at 3pm.
The match was originally due to take place 24 hours earlier, but Stoke’s progress in the Europa League forced it to be put back to the Sunday.
Under Premier League rules, rescheduled games must be played at the earliest available opportunity and, because of City’s Carling Cup commitments, Sunday was the only option available.
The rescheduled time of 1pm, though, proved hugely controversial because it meant the game would clash with the Great North Run, raising fears of traffic chaos while also causing anger among fans who faced having to choose between competing in the run or going to the match.
Northumbria Police had recommended the 1pm time and Sunderland, Stoke and the Premier League agreed. But after lobbying from Great North Run organisers – who approached the club suggesting they support a later kick-off – agreement was reached by all parties that a 3pm kick-off should be approved.
Paul Weir, Sunderland’s head of safety and security said: “Naturally this has been hugely frustrating for the club and, more importantly, for our supporters.
“We know that such a late change to a game that has already been moved once is far from ideal, especially given that there were no concerns over the safety of supporters in the original scheduling. We are pleased however that our original request of 3pm has now been supported.
“We fully sympathise with fans, both home and away, who may be adversely affected by this decision and we share in their frustrations, which has ultimately been beyond the control of Sunderland AFC.”