Sunderland AFC's Harrogate tickets cancelled over 'insufficient stewarding plan', council confirms
Sunderland supporters were left furious after an away game against Harrogate was changed to a behind closed doors match with less than 24 hours notice after tickets had been sold.
SAFC won 4-0 at Harrogate Town on Saturday, July 24, but 800 fans were unhappy after they had bought tickets for £10 each the Wednesday before, only to be told on Friday that they would not be admitted.
Refunds were given and the match shown free on a stream however many of the 800 had made travel, accommodation and other arrangements.
North Yorkshire County Council raised issues with plans for the match crowds, and today have confirmed that it didn’t receive the relevant safety documents until after tickets were sold.
Harrogate Town AFC said: “At just after 2pm on July 23, the club received a letter from North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) Safety Advisory Group (SAG), who had identified a number of issues that made them uneasy about the match going ahead with a crowd.”
North Yorkshire County Council has now said it did not receive the relevant safety documents from the club until Friday morning, by which time the tickets had been sold.
The council has said that the stewarding plan the club had put forward was not sufficient and that officers had decided ‘urgent matters’ would need to be addressed after they attended Harrogate’s home game against Rotherham United four days earlier on Wednesday, July 21 with 429 spectators.
Matt O’Neill of NYCC’s trading standards, said: “Together with partner agencies in the Safety Advisory Group we have pulled out all the stops to try to support the club to deal with a range of safety measures that had to be addressed to enable the match to go ahead.
“Safety standards are put in place to protect the spectators and ensure a safe match by the Sports Ground Safety Association and, as the public would expect, they must be met.
“We recognise that this will be disappointing for the fans who were looking forward to the friendly match against Sunderland AFC, especially after such a difficult last season due to Covid restrictions. However, the safety of everyone entering the facility must come first.
“Following safety concerns raised with us, our trading standards officers attended the last match held on Wednesday night between Harrogate Town FC and Rotherham United. At this point it was clear there were a number of urgent matters to be addressed, if the Sunderland match was to go ahead as planned.
“The risk assessment and stewarding plan the club subsequently provided on Friday (23 July) morning was unfortunately not sufficient. However, discussions continue to see what can be done to find a safe solution looking ahead.”
Dave Rose, vice-chair of Sunderland supporters group Red and White Army, said: “It’s always extremely disappointing for supporters when plans are changed at the last minute, especially those who have made arrangements for travel and work and so forth.
“You would have thought that the club (Harrogate), local authority and other stakeholders would have their house in order before inconveniencing 800 fans.”
Harrogate Town AFC did not wish to comment further when approached by the Echo.