- WHEN? Tuesday 9th December (7pm KO)
- WHERE? The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle, NE1 1RQ
- REGISTER: Email your name and club to firstname.lastname@example.org
In recent seasons the white hot atmosphere of the Tyne-Wear derby has, occasionally, spilled over into disorder. However, in the past 12 months there's been a level of co-operation among fans not seen for many decades, if ever.
Back in January news emerged that a “bubble” match was to be imposed on Sunderland fans travelling to St James’ Park. These are games where no independent transport is allowed, infringing on freedom of movement and smearing all fans as hooligans.
Fans from both sides of the divide stood together in a unique coalition to say “no” to the bubble, demonstrating the strength of feeling and supporter unity on this issue.
Remarkably, the campaign succeeded in its goals with both clubs releasing a statement saying they would be “withdrawing the terms and conditions of ticket sales, which previously stated that all supporters must attend the game on official transport.”
Keep the passion, lose the poison
Fans groups followed up this success with the FSF-backed “A Derby To Be Proud Of” campaign, supported by A Love Supreme, Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust, NUFC Fans United, nufc.com, Ready To Go, Roker Report, Seventy3, #time4change, The Mag, True Faith, and Wise Men Say. (If your group isn't listed here, but would like to offer support, email email@example.com.)
Their joint statement read: “Genuine fans don't want the authorities to have any excuse to cut ticket allocations or restrict travel in future seasons, we just want a game to remember. We can keep the passion, but lose the poison. Let's make this a derby to be proud of.”
The game went ahead on Saturday 1st February without major incident.
This spirit emerged again over the summer, albeit in tragic circumstances. Following the deaths of Newcastle United fans John Alder and Liam Sweeney on Flight MH17, a fundraising page started by Sunderland fan Gary Ferguson raised an amazing £33,618.
The original target was £100 to pay for a floral tribute, but such was the response more than £15,000 was finally handed over to both the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Marie Curie.
“We may be Sunderland fans, who traditionally have deep rivalry with Newcastle, but there are things far more important than any football games,” said Gary.
A Derby To Be Proud Of
Of course no-one wants a situation where Newcastle United and Sunderland fans wander to the match, hand-in-hand, singing each other's ditties, hoping for an entertaining draw.
Rivalry and a hostile “welcome” go with derby matches like salt and vinegar goes with fish and chips… but we believe the white hot atmosphere can remain, without the hatred and violence.
With that in mind fans from both sides will come together for an event before the derby on Sunday 21st December which will look at ways for fans to make the fixture A Derby To Be Proud Of. It will also show the local media what fans are doing to combat unacceptable behaviour.
There’ll be a bit discussion, a little entertainment, and plans laid out for this year's games over a few pints in The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle, on Tuesday 9th December (7pm KO).
If it's a success and proves popular another event could be arranged in Sunderland before the return fixture on Saturday 4th April 2015.
We hope to see you there, but move quick, places are first come, first served...