SUNDERLAND fans travelling to Newcastle for next month’s Tyne-Wear derby showdown will have to do so on official club coaches, it has been confirmed.
The Echo reported earlier this week that Black Cats fans were angry that they could be forced to go on the so-called “bubble trip” to attend the Saturday, February 1, clash, after discussions between Sunderland AFC, Newcastle United and Northumbria Police.
Now, SAFC bosses have confirmed that a fleet of buses and official supporters’ branch transport will depart from the Stadium of Light on the morning of the game, with designated rendezvous points along the route.
Match tickets will state that official transport must be used in order to get into St James’ Park and supporters will need to leave the ground on the official transport provided.
Sunderland fans hit out at the decision, which they feel has been taken because of violence which flared after last season’s derby, when Newcastle fans rioted after their team’s 3-0 defeat to the Black Cats.
Lee Jones tweeted: “So it’s a bubble trip for SAFC fans due to Newcastle fans smacking horses and smashing own city #seemsfair.”
Emma Donnelly wrote: “Was it us that smashed our own city up last season? No. Were Newcastle fans made to do a bubble trip when they came here? No.”
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 while 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.”
Further information on coach routes would be released over the coming weeks.