Sunderland fans banned from the Stadium of Light as police investigate trouble at Newcastle Central Station have launched a petition against the move, reports The Guardian. Supporters returning from a pre-season friendly at Hearts on August 8 were caught up in the incident, and more than 40 arrests were made as violence flared. Four people were hospitalised and others received minor injuries, although no one has yet been charged in connection with the trouble.
However, several Sunderland season ticket holders last week received letters informing them that they were no longer welcome at the stadium in line with the club's policy of banning anyone arrested in connection with an incident of football violence. The club insist anyone eventually cleared of involvement will be allowed to return, but has cited its responsibility to protect other fans as the reason for the action.
Today, some of the supporters affected have launched an online petition, with the backing of the Football Supporters' Federation, in an attempt to persuade the chairman, Niall Quinn, to lift the ban.
The FSF chair, Dr Malcolm Clarke, said: "The Sunderland fans behind this petition, a group of supporters who post on the Ready To Go Message Board, approached The Football Supporters' Federation last week when news of the bans broke and asked for our help in protesting against the decision. We are seeing more and more clubs treating fans in this way, receive similar complaints from supporters up and down the country and are delighted that these Sunderland supporters are prepared to take a stand. We will help them in whatever ways we can.
"I have little doubt that the protest will attract the support and solidarity of fans the length and breadth of the country, many of whom suffer exactly the same problems at their own clubs. The FSF's ticketing group are currently looking into whether or not Sunderland's policy contradicts their season ticket terms and conditions - we believe it might - and we will be taking this matter up separately with the club. In the meantime, we sincerely hope Mr Quinn will listen to his team's supporters on this issue."
However, a statement from Sunderland reiterated the club's policy on such matters.
The chief executive, Steve Walton, said: "Sunderland AFC operates a zero tolerance policy for anti-social behaviour and has to consider the safety of the majority of fans when there is any allegation of this type of behaviour or football related violence."