Police get own away strips to join travelling Sunderland and Newcastle fans at every game

Officers in their new away kits.
Officers in their new away kits.

Football fans aren't the only ones getting ready for the start of the new season - police officers have been getting their matchday kits ready too.

This weekend Sunderland AFC play host to Charlton Athletic as they kick-off the beginning of their League One campaign.

A week later Newcastle United will take on Tottenham Hotspur at St James' Park in their first match of the new season.

But the players won't be the only ones pulling on their new kit this season as police in the region get ready to join fans in the stands.

Over the summer months Northumbria Police's Football Neighbourhood Policing Team have been liaising with fans and security staff at both clubs.

And they have now confirmed that their officers will join supporters at every single match in the 2018/19 campaign.

Inspector Gary Jones, who oversees the work of the Football NPT, said the officers on duty will have their own special strip when travelling away.

He said: "Many fans don't realise that we send our own officers on away trips so that we can help out if they have any issues.

"All those officers will be wearing high-vis jackets but they have big bits of blue over the shoulders to make them easy to spot.

"It is our own away strip if you;d like but we think it's important that fans know they have a local officer there in case they get into any trouble.

"Our officers have all the travel information, details on away fan friendly pubs and can also direct people at unfamiliar stadiums."

Insp Jones added: "Last season fans of both Newcastle and Sunderland were really well behaved and we have already praised them for working with us all year.

"There were some challenging matches where we had to put additional resources in place but we saw very little trouble inside or outside the stadiums.

"The North east has some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in the entire country and they don't want to see trouble at the matches.

"We want to ask fans to work with us again this season and enjoy the passion of the football without getting involved in any disorder or abusive behaviour."

In total the team made 80 arrests through the course of the 2017/18 season - 43 at Newcastle United games and 37 at Sunderland matches - and also handed out eight banning orders as a result of the bad behaviour.

The figures are very low when you consider that more than 1,500,000 tickets were sold for Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC home games over the course of the season.

That equates to just one arrest for every 18,000 fans who passed through the turnstiles.

If you are travelling away to support our region's teams then you can follow the police's dedicated football accounts on Twitter.

They are @NPNUFC and @NPSAFC and are managed by those officers who travel home and away with supporters and tweet out important information.