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Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship

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Roker Roundtable: Is it time for stronger fan safety measures at the Stadium of Light?

The ugly scenes in the North Stand on Sunday were not new, but were completely unacceptable nevertheless. Should the club be doing more to protect our fans at home games?

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ian Bendelow says…

The club is sleepwalking into a disaster here.

If Steve Davison thinks that there is nothing to worry about when glass bottles are raining down from the upper tier, then I suggest he stands at the entrance to Black Cat House while someone drops a bottle of Stella Artois onto his head from the roof.

It is absolutely incomprehensible that nothing would be done despite repeated incidents in the away end, and the club should establish a two-strike policy. Do it once, get a reduced allocation. Do it twice, and the offenders should find themselves banned. No ifs or buts.

The search procedures also need to be much more effective.

Having a demoralised agency worker giving a half-baked pat down to dozens of coked-up supporters achieves absolutely nothing. I was once told by a police officer at Old Trafford that the ‘pyro pooches’ are absolutely useless. They will sniff out a class A drug in your pocket, but they do not know the difference between a flare and a packet of dog biscuits.

Secondly, the visiting fans should be moved.

It would improve the atmosphere and remove a large part of the risk of you or your child being smashed in the chops by a projectile. The issues it may create would of course be moving our fans, which would not go down well, but we contributed to this situation by relocating the away support in the first place.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Kev Barker says…

For me, the away fans need to be moved.

Back when the club made the decision to house the visiting support above the home end, it made sense in theory and I thought it would help with the atmosphere. Having sat in that section on numerous occasions over the last few seasons, however, it actually made the atmosphere worse, particularly if we are behind in the game, as all you can hear are the fans going berserk.

As far as safety goes, it’s usually the minority and followers of certain teams such as Portsmouth and Coventry that cause the problems, but it definitely needs addressing.

It would make sense to tie it into the whole ‘safe standing’ argument, and maybe we can move them into a corner section and also introduce safe standing areas for home supporters. That would improve the safety and atmosphere for everyone.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Andrew Parrington says…

I remember the clamour for moving the fans up into the gods.

The theory was that it would improve the atmosphere, and the old position behind the goal gave visiting teams momentum when they were shooting that way in the second half. However, I don’t think the move has had the impact we hoped for.

While the identity of the Roker End has largely been a success during the last few years, moving the away fans to the South West Corner would improve safety and help the atmosphere at both ends of the pitch.

Something needs to be done, and if relocation isn’t an option, retractable netting would be a proportionate and safe response.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

I agree that the quick fix would be to move the travelling supporters, but we need a solution and we need it very quickly before someone gets hurt.

We also need the law to deal with the minority of idiots who perpetrate this assault on those sat below them. I was at the Coventry game at home in League One when we drew 1-1 thanks to a late equaliser from Benji Kimpioka, and it happened then, as well.

That was in November 2019: same opponent, same issues, and nothing done.

I don’t care what measures are taken, but they need happen now. Ignoring this and taking no action is totally unacceptable and could lead to legal action against the club, should some poor soul really get hurt.

Sort it, Kyril.

Sunderland v Oxford United - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Kyle Garrett says…

The safety of those in the north stand was the reason for the low attendance in the playoff semi-final in 2019, and that was three years ago.

Unfortunately, I don’t think moving the supporters will change anything, because objects can still be thrown towards the home supporters.

In the RAWA fan meeting, Steve Davison said that away fans were moved back from the front rows to prevent object being thrown down, but doesn’t take a strong arm to throw something down, and it doesn’t take much thinking from an idiot celebrating a goal, either.

At the Stadium of Light, the safety checks before games are almost non-existent, and you only really get checked if you have a bag, making it easy for flares and glass bottles to be smuggled into the stadium.

Off the pitch, we are being run like a joke, and it needs to change.

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