Sunday, March 25

Suggested letter

Dear Councillor,

it has come to my attention that, when the Regulatory Committee meets on March 29, the decision you make related to item 4 could have serious safety implications to Sunderland AFC supporters.

I, like others, oppose any attempt to breach stadium regulations without exception.

However, my concern is that, unless Manchester United get a reasonable allocation (upwards of 5,000) there will be a strong possibility of thousands of away supporters trying to gain access to the home end.

Last season, 45,408 people attended the same match, leaving 3,592 empty seats - all in the home end.

It is reasonable to assume there could be even more empty seats at this season's match as there is likely to be nothing riding on the game for Sunderland.

In comparison, the match could be of huge importance to United as it could be a title decider.

If that is the case, thousands of United fans would try to buy home-end tickets, whether through Sunderland, through ticket touts or Sunderland fans and some might even try to force entry into the stadium without a ticket.

Two seasons ago when the title was decided on the final day in a match at Wigan, United had an allocation of 6,000 tickets and even then there were about a thousand United fans in the Wigan end.

This provoked multiple flashpoints in the stadium with home fans attacking United fans.

And, as the home-end gates opened with five minutes to go, the stewards were overpowered and, again, about 800 United fans entered the stadium to see the trophy presentation - causing more flashpoints with home fans.

While I, of course, would class that as intolerable behaviour, I cannot ignore that it happened and would be likely to happen again unless necessary steps were taken.

If 'safety' measures are to be taken in the truest sense of the word, then the safety of all fans on the day must be taken into account.

I believe the only way of doing so is to increase the size of the allocation and to impose a strict procedure for purchasing home-end tickets for this match.

Finally, it has previously been recorded that Liverpool fans have repeated contravened stadium regulations with persistant standing at Sunderland.

As a result they got a reduced allocation of 2,361 for this seasons game - more than 600 than the committee proposes to pass on March 29.

I would urge you to either defer any decision until police and Sunderland AFC's safety officer has had chance to consider alternative options for allocation arrangements or to reject the recommendations put before you in point 4.1

xx xxx, Sunderland