NEWCASTLE fans at last night's North-East derby were banned from wearing gas masks to poke fun at Middlesbrough supporters because of fears over terrorist attacks.

Boro fans have been dubbed Smoggies by rivals Newcastle and Sunderland because of Teesside's petro-chemical industry.

In the past, visiting fans have worn dust masks, white chemical suits and gas masks - but anyone doing so last night was not allowed into the Riverside Stadium.

"These suits can incite trouble and given the world situation we feel they are particularly inappropriate," said a spokesman for Middlesbrough Football Club.

Cleveland Police said they agreed, but stressed it was not an offence to wear a mask or a chemical suit. A spokesman said: "We feel it is insensitive and intimidating to wear such outfits, particularly in the current international situation.

"The club decided it would not let such people into the ground and we agree with them, but it is a matter for the club."

The spokesman added: "It can cause problems between the fans because it is essentially saying it is not a very nice place.

"If there were any unrest, it would be hard to identify fans if they had masks on."

Mark Jensen, editor of Newcastle fanzine The Mag, accused Boro officials of lacking a sense of humour. "This must have touched a bit of a raw nerve," he said.