POLICE chiefs have acknowledged that the late start for Sunday’s Wear-Tyne derby poses problems – but say they have enough resources to cope with any potential disorder by fans.
Sunderland and Newcastle United face each other at the Stadium of Light in a 4pm kick-off, with a capacity crowd of 48,000 expected.
There will be people who will be drinking to excess who are intent on causing violence and damage, and what I would say is that we are ready for those people, as will the police if we need them to intervene.Paul Weir, head of safety, Sunderland AFC
In a repeat of the decision when Sunderland travelled to St James’s Park for the first derby of this season last December, there will be no formal escort, with officers set to walk alongside Newcastle fans making their way to the ground from buses or Metro trains.
Match commander, Chief Superintendent Steve Neill, said: “It’s the 11th derby I’ve had the privilege of covering and we’ve learnt from everything that’s gone before.
“The last two or three Sunderland v Newcastle games here at the Stadium of Light have gone very well.
“If you haven’t got a ticket, the message is ‘go out and watch the match wherever you want’, whether that be at home or in a pub, but drink responsibly.
“We need to remember that there are a lot of people who will be going about their daily business, with it being Easter Sunday, perhaps going to church or visiting family.”
As part of changes to the usual matchday procedure at the stadium, turnstiles for home supporters will be open from 2.30pm onwards, with SAFC fans able to use any entrance in the East, West and South stands to get inside.
Access to the North stand for home supporters will be limited due to safety segregation measures, as police divert visiting Magpies fans.
Paul Weir, head of safety at Sunderland AFC, said: “The risk assessment for this event did throw up increased risks because of increased alcohol.
“If any supporters are too heavily under the influence, they won’t be allowed in the stadium.
“There will be people who will be drinking to excess who are intent on causing violence and damage, and what I would say is that we are ready for those people, as will the police if we need them to intervene.”
A high-resolution CCTV camera will also be in place at the ground to record footage of any anti-social behaviour.
Mr Weir added: “We take a zero-tolerance approach to any form of anti-social behaviour, and using this system we can identify and deal with any such occurrences very efficiently.”