Andrew Smithson says…
First of all, I think it is a real shame that this even needs to be a consideration.
The fact that some people cannot show fellow fans a basic amount of respect is utterly depressing. I fear that the reasons for this are widespread, however, and go way beyond just football.
It is what it is, and we are getting to the stage where action has to be taken.
Cost can no longer be a primary concern, if it ever was, and assuming that netting can do the job and meets the relevant safety criteria, it seems to be the best solution. It would result in the the least amount of disruption, and the quickest implementation, and would hopefully be movable for non-football events, as well.
Some more preventative measures could also help.
I remember when I first started going to away games, the coaches would be stopped and searched by the local police, and even now we get patted down before going into some places.
I enter the Stadium of Light via the south end of the ground, so I am not sure what the current arrangements here are like, but if the searches are as lax as they were at Blackburn, for example it is pretty clear how stuff could be smuggled in.
Obviously, many of the items being thrown are everyday items that would be allowed in anyway. I don’t like having to be draconian, but a more thorough set of procedures may at least give the impression that this behaviour is being monitored.
Also, a clear method for reporting incidents and getting culprits identified and dealt with quickly is also vital, and may add to the idea that this behaviour is not going to be tolerated.
It is heartbreaking to hear of people going to games with their kids and being hurt.
I want fans coming to Sunderland to be able to enjoy the day in safety, no matter who they support, and I hope that in time, society develops in a way that means these incoming steps may only be for the short term.
Andrew Parrington says…
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need anything.
Throwing things down and causing injury to fellow fans is such an idiotic, senseless thing to do, and you would like to think that preventative measures wouldn’t be needed. Yet here we are for at least the second time this season, picking up the pieces after more unacceptable behaviour.
Security at the turnstiles needs to be stepped up, and stadium banning orders need to be enforced across the country.
Visiting clubs, particularly those with history like Coventry and now Burnley, should commit in advance to warning their fans of strong consequences of their actions.
I’d rather it wasn’t the case, but at least as a temporary measure I think netting does now have to be brought in. It seems to me that is the only guaranteed way that we can prevent further incidents.
Ultimately, both from the perspective of safety and atmosphere in the ground, the club should be making preparations to bring the away fans down into the lower bowl.
Phil West says…
Netting is the only answer to the ongoing issue of projectiles being thrown from the upper tier of the north stand.
Away supporters are afforded a superb view of the action when they come to our stadium, but their vantage point often acts as a launching pad from which they can throw all manner of objects down onto the Sunderland fans below them.
I’m well aware that the wider issue is whether the away fans should be seated in that area of the stadium anyway, but until such a time when they are relocated (if they ever are), I don’t think there is any other option but to install netting. It might look somewhat ugly, but supporter safety is paramount, and there have been far too many occasions during which games have been spoiled by the actions of pockets of unruly fans.
In addition, I’d like to see tougher checks taking place outside the stadium.
There is a moderate security presence around the away turnstiles on match days, but are they being thorough enough? I’m not sure. Whenever I walk past before heading into the stadium, I rarely get a sense that away supporters are being checked properly for any banned items- it all looks a bit casual to me.
It’s in the club’s hands to make the changes, and I really hope they do, for the sake of every supporter who sits in the lower section of the north stand.