Let freedom ring: Newcastle and Sunderland unite to oppose police travel restrictions

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Even bitter rivals see eye-to-eye on an issue causing great consternation amongst the supporters on both sides of the Tyne-Wear Derby.

In what’s been described as a mandated “bubble trip,” police in Northeast England have placed restrictions on how Sunderland fans may acquire tickets and travel to St. James Park for the road fixture of the derby, but supporters and now the clubs themselves are stepping into the fray.

Sunderland supporters had independent travel to the game banned and were being forced to travel in specific buses to the match, and police had said that decision was made by Black Cats management.

Yet Sunderland has spoken up on the matter, as both their club and Newcastle United are in a public, heated argument with police on differences of opinion regarding match start times.

Part of the joint statement:

“In light of Northumbria Police’s latest statement, Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC will now inform the Premier League that all future fixtures between the two clubs will be available for kick-off times to suit the clubs, the league and their broadcast partners, if applicable, and will expect Northumbria Police to police these games, especially given the considerable costs both clubs incur for such special police services.

After considering the police position, Sunderland AFC will be withdrawing the terms and conditions of ticket sales, which previously stated that all supporters must attend the game on official transport.”

Police had previously said they have zero control over when a match starts, while the clubs have publicly said the police limit when the heated derbies may kick off.

There were 29 arrests after the last derby, including the now-infamous puncher of a police horse (now in jail for 12 months), so it isn’t like police concerns aren’t understandable. Yet the concept that sports fans would be forced into one targeted group of vehicles runs a little perpendicular to common sense. Marching fans into the away section (above) is one thing; limiting their personal transportation is another.