The police have a hard enough job gaining and keeping public sympathy and understanding when they act with sensitivity, tact and a sense of fair play. How much worse it is when they appear to care little about the impact their decisions have on ordinary people. Let Pete Sixsmith climb on to his Soapbox and begin his tantrum with Sky and Mike Ashley also in the firing line …
Yesterday both the Newcastle United and Sunderland websites carried brief statements to the effect that the Tyne/Wear derby on Oct 31 had a changed kick off time. What had been a 4pm. start was now scheduled for 1.30pm “on police advice”.
Well, isn’t that just bloody marvelous.
No consideration for fans from both clubs who had probably made their travelling arrangements weeks ago when the fixture list came out. No regard for the fans of Bolton and Liverpool who now see their lunchtime kick off pushed back to late afternoon. Yet another example of the paying customers being treated with contempt by clubs, broadcasters and our esteemed guardians of public safety.
When the Sky/ESPN fixtures came out, there was a sharp intake of breath at the sight of a Tyne Wear Derby starting at 4pm.
“I bet Northumbria Police aren’t happy about that,” was uttered by all and sundry. But, as the weeks moved on and there was no change, it was presumed that they were happy about it and that they had given the go ahead.
So, I would imagine that exiled Mackems and Mags the length of the land made travel arrangements which involved morning trains in and late evening trains out. Many of these travellers are adept at picking up cheap rail tickets, which, of course, are non transferrable. But if Sky wanted a 4pm, that is what they got.
Buses had been booked by Sunderland fans to undertake the arduous 12 mile trip from the brightness and sharpness of Wearside to the dark, gloomy lands of Tyneside.
It takes 3 hours to do the trek in convoy, and then another three hours to get back, so I don’t think anyone relished the thought of returning to Sunderland at 9pm, albeit with three points under their belts.
Now, it’s a 10am start from the Stadium, so the rozzers can show off their impressive array of helicopters and flashing blue lights. Earlier than a trip to Wigan or Manchester for some people and a full day out for a game that ought to be a half day at most.
Why was it left so late? Why did Northumbria Police not challenge Sky’s preferred kick off time? Which numbskull at Sky HQ thought that the most intense derby in the Premier League should start late, thereby allowing a full day’s drinking by the home fans?
And now, people are left to rearrange their travel, accommodation and tickets with barely a month left. Football for the fans – don’t make me laugh.
On top of that, Newcastle have decided to charge the ludicrous sum of £42 for a seat that is halfway to the moon.
Or at least I thought it was ludicrous until I checked and saw that the range of prices for this game was from £42 to £67. No wonder they had 11,000 empty seats last Sunday. I know the prices wouldn’t be as high for Stoke, but the principle is established by Ashley: let’s rip them off as much as we can. Is there a less pleasant owner out there? Tell those West Ham fans to sit down!!
By contrast, I have seen two cracking Northern League games this week. Shildon’s 4-0 home win over Newcastle Benfield was part of my season ticket package (£70a year) and for £4 I saw a very competitive cup tie between Brandon and Washington. I could see 10 Northern League Division 2 games for the price of one Newcastle v Sunderland ticket. Maybe next season…………
Right of reply: Salut! Sunderland would be delighted to hear from Northumbria Police or anyone else wishing to justify a decision – or perhaps more pertinently its timing – apparently taken without the slightest concern for the supporting public.
The police statement I have seen, which makes no reference whatever to the inconvenience even a child of eight could have predicted, read: “: “Our primary concern is the welfare of fans and it was with this in mind that the council and ourselves requested that the kick-off time be moved to 1.30pm.
“We expressed concerns that a later kick off could lead to increased levels of alcohol fuelled disorder and therefore requested the match be brought forward to address those concerns.
“We want fans to be able to enjoy the game whilst taking into account the needs of local residents and businesses, we believe this earlier kick-off time will help facilitate both.”