Chris Coleman, manager of Sunderland football club, has backed the decision to limit ticket availability to home matches as rival fans make plans to goad home supporters about their team’s imminent relegation.
The move comes as an effort to guard against the possibility of Newcastle United fans attending the Stadium of Light to revel in their Championship rivals’ likely relegation to League One. There was talk on social media and fan websites about Newcastle supporters’ plans.
After talks with local police, Sunderland officials opted to remove all cash turnstiles for Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Norwich and will not be allowing supporters to pay on the gate for the remaining home games.
The club has also introduced strict eligibility criteria for anyone wanting to purchase a ticket from the box office, requiring anyone attempting to gain access to a home game to have a previous history of purchasing tickets from the club.
“I totally see the security side of it. I get why. Liaising with the police, you have to listen to them, I understand why because safety has to come first,” Coleman said, according to the Northern Echo newspaper.
“I want to see the stadium with as many Sunderland people as we can fit, but I can understand why the club and the police have come to that decision.
“Football is football, and you’re always going to get one team laughing at another. Especially if it’s two derby teams. But all the Newcastle fans I bump in to have been fabulous with me. The proper Newcastle fans have been proper people.
“They want the derby games back. In any walk of life, any industry, there’s a small percentage of people that are unsavoury, but the Newcastle fans I speak to want us back up there because they want the derby games.”
There was reportedly trouble at a recent under-23 game between the two sides, with Newcastle fans ripping out seats in the away section at the Stadium of Light.
He said: “Football being football, surprises happen all the time. We’ve been there a while, but it doesn’t mean we can’t pull something out and take it to the wire.
“Our job is to make sure that at 5pm on Saturday we’re still in the fight, and the other teams are looking at it and saying we haven’t given it up.”