It has been over a decade since the powers that be at Sunderland decided that it made perfect logistical sense to place away supporters up in the upper north stand.
Arguably, that’s one thing we are happy to concede when the predictable “you copied us” line from that lot up the road is used as a stick to beat us with.
The organisational mastermind behind the switch at the end of the 2009-2010 season thought it was appropriate to not only put often problematic visiting support in the gods, but to have them directly above those in the family section in the lower bowl.
Over the years we have become accustomed to home fans being carted off to hospital or tended to by the stadium’s medical team after an assortment of missiles have been launched down from the (insert name of club) fans above.
Several meetings have been held with the club and the supporter’s trust to come to a satisfactory resolution, that ensures the safety of home fans in the lower north stand, with recent, unsavoury events during both Coventry and Burnley’s visits to the Stadium of Light this season.
From erecting netting and improving CCTV, to more rigorous searches and the view that away fans should return to the Roker End, there certainly hasn’t been a shortage of suggestions.
After Monday’s official communication from Sunderland which announced that further safety precautions would be implemented as of our next home game against Cardiff, it was to supporter’s dismay that those changes were akin to sticking a plaster on a broken leg:
Following a request made on Thursday morning, the EFL have agreed that coins and vapes will no longer be permitted in the away section of the North Stand.
Not only will searching stewards face an arduous task in acquiring reluctant away fans’ shrapnel, but it is fair to presume from most supporters’ experience of away matches that security searches are hardly rigorous enough to detect vapes and coins at the best of times, let alone when they’re deliberately concealed.
While closer, more detailed CCTV surveillance will certainly act as a deterrent, the level of preventative measures required far outweigh the ones that the club has elected to apply, and thus, those fans in the lower tier are still at risk of inanimate objects landing on their heads.
That old adage that there are idiots in every fan base certainly rings true, so the complete prevention of any idiotic behaviour wherever away fans are seated within the confines of any given stadium is nigh-on impossible.
However, the preventative measures or lack thereof need to be taken with the utmost seriousness by the club as the current arrangement is both irresponsible and perilously dangerous.
While both the cost, and efficacy of installing netting have been rightly questioned, it’s perhaps the most viable option the club has until the end of the season, when there need to be frank discussions on how we proceed and whether away supporters should be returned to the lower bowl.
Until the appropriate action is taken, we as a club are sitting on a ticking time bomb.