SUNDERLAND fans must travel to next month’s derby at Newcastle on official club coaches.

Supporters will only be allowed tickets for the Saturday February 1 derby game if they agree to travel on free coaches provided by the club or official supporters club branches from the Stadium of Light.

The aim is to reduce the potential for trouble between home and visiting fans.

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Some fans travel to games by train but police say that fans are at risk as they walk from Central Station to St James’ Park.

Sunderland AFC’s head of safety, Paul Weir, said: “The safety of all fans at the derby is our priority.

“We have consulted with fans’ groups regarding the implementation of these new arrangements and while we recognise that some of our fans may be inconvenienced, we are working to minimise this as much as possible.

“We have liaised closely with Safety Advisory Group members, who are in full support of the new arrangements and this is an on-going process to make the derby a safe and enjoyable event for everyone, with a view to continuing to make it better in the future.”

Northumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable, Jo Farrell, said: "We welcome the decision by Sunderland Football Club in trying to avoid the disorder that has arisen at recent derby matches.

"In particular Sunderland Football Club's initiative to condition ticket sales on travel to St James' Park aims to prevent the disorder that occurred around Central Station and the routes to and from the stadium at last year's match.

“During the escort of Sunderland supporters from the stadium to Central Station there were incidents of disorder in Newcastle city centre directed at them and police. “