‘Bubble trip’: Sunderland confirms fans must use only official transport for Newcastle derby clash

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SUNDERLAND fans attending next month’s Tyne-Wear derby will be barred from the match if they don’t use official transport.

All Sunderland supporters attending the derby will be required to travel to St James’ Park on official transport.

This will include a fleet of buses departing from the Stadium of Light and official supporters’ branch transport, with designated rendezvous points along the route.

SAFC has confirmed match tickets for the February 1 fixture will be printed with a warning that supporters may not travel independently.

Transport, including the official supporters’ branch coaches, will be provided free of charge by Sunderland AFC. Supporters will also be required to leave St James’ Park on the official transport provided.

Fans were angered when the Echo broke the news that fans could face a ‘bubble trip’ to the fixture.

It comes after ugly scenes marred Sunderland’s victory over the Magpies at St James’s Park last year, with rioting, attacks and the infamous incident which saw a police horse punched by a Newcastle fan.

Black Cats supporters have been angered by the move to stop them travelling independently, pointing out it was black-and-white supporters who caused the trouble last year.

But Sunderland AFC said the decision had been made after consultation with fans groups, Safety Advisory Groups, Newcastle United FC and Northumbria Police.

Stadium of Light bosses said the club’s plans will build on last season’s coach travel arrangements, which received positive feedback from SAFC fans.

Sunderland AFC’s head of safety, Paul Weir, said: “The safety of all fans at the derby is our priority. We also recognise the need by all parties to consider the safety of people going about their day to day business in Newcastle.

“We have consulted with fans groups regarding the implementation of these new arrangements and whilst we recognise that some of our fans may be inconvenienced, we are working to minimise this as much as possible.

“We have liaised closely with Safety Advisory Group members, who are in full support of the new arrangements and this is an on-going process to make the derby a safe and enjoyable event for everyone, with a view to continuing to make it better in the future.

“I would like to thank our fans for their positive input so far and I am confident that these new arrangements will be a success.”

Northumbria Police backed the travel arrangements.

Officers said it is hoped the policing plan – which includes a number of new measures – will ensure the safety of all supporters and reduce the risk of disorder following the match, such as that which took place after the last derby in Newcastle.

Operational Commander, Chief Superintendent Steve Neill, said: “Public safety and the welfare of supporters is our absolute priority and we’ve been working closely with the clubs, local authorities, supporters’ groups and other partners.

“As ever, our priority is the safety of the supporters from both clubs as well as the wider public and together with partners we’ve carefully considered all aspects of managing this match, with this being one part of a much wider policing operation.”

Further information is due to be announced regarding departure times and details for the official transport.