NEWCASTLE United's reserve team game against rivals Sunderland had to be held up tonight after fans ripped down signs advertising owner Mike Ashley's company, Sports Direct.

Social media site, Twitter, was rife with news of the trouble at St James' Park and police later confirmed they had launched an investigation.

A tweet from the official Sunderland FC Twitter account @SAFCofficial said: "Newcastle fans are tearing down the Sports Direct signs around the ground and throwing them onto the pitch."

While Sunday Mirror writer Brian McNally wrote: "Reserve game has to be halted at 3-3 to allow stewards to clear the pitch of Sports Direct advertising signs. All kicking off."

The referee halted play and the players took a drinks break as officials restored order, before play resumed.

The incident happened during a match played in front of a crowd of nearly 3,000 at the Tyneside club's home ground. Newcastle's reserves got a late equaliser in a 3-3 draw.

The ground was officially renamed The Sports Direct Arena recently by Mr Ashley, but the changes have not gone down well with the Magpies fans. One fan was handed a fine by magistrates after daubing the name St James' Park on the walls of the ground after the original lettering was removed.

A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: "At 9.46pm tonight Northumbria Police were made aware of damage to signage within the Newcastle United stadium in Newcastle.

"Damage followed a Newcastle versus Sunderland reserve game at the stadium. Police are making enquiries to ascertain who caused the damage."

No one from Newcastle United could be reached for comment.