SUNDERLAND AFC fans have been praised by police for their behaviour at the Wear-Tees derby at the Stadium of Light.
Officers made 17 arrests for low-level offences, including drunkenness and possessing alcohol inside the ground.
A crowd of 34,000 watched the FA Cup match against Middlesbrough, which ended 1-1, and there was a huge police presence in and around the stadium and the city centre to prevent trouble from breaking out.
Chief Superintendent Dave Pryer, of Northumbria Police’s Operations Command, said: “The policing operation went very smoothly and I’d like to commend the professionalism of all those involved.
“The degree of planning that went into this large scale operation ensured that genuine fans and families were able to enjoy the game in an atmosphere free of intimidation or violence.”
In addition to extra police officers, a barrier system previously used in Wear-Tyne derby matches was put in place to keep the rival fans from seeing each other.
After the final whistle yesterday, Middlesbrough fans were held back for a short time while home fans dispersed.
Chief Superintendent Pryer said: “Seventeen arrests out of crowd of that size is very low.
“I’m pleased that the vast majority of fans who attended today were clearly there to enjoy the football and were not interested in engaging in disorder.
“Public safety is always our number one priority during any football match and the few people who chose to pose a threat to public safety were dealt with swiftly by police.”
The 1.30pm kick-off time was also welcomed by police, claiming it gives fans less time to get drunk before the game.
Chief Supt Pryer said: “I’d like to thank Middlesbrough Football Club for their assistance with the coaches, which once again proved to be the safest and most reliable means of transporting supporters.
“I’d also like to thank the fans for their patience when they were held back for a short while to allow home fans to disperse from the ground and a smooth transfer to the coaches.”
About 2,600 Middlesbrough fans took up their club’s offer of free transport to and from the Stadium of Light.
Chief Supt Pryer added: “The cordon system again proved an effective tactic in ensuring that all fans reached and left the stadium safely and diffusing tension.”