NORTHUMBRIA Police is investigating allegations of objects being thrown by a ‘small minority’ of Coventry City fans at Sunderland supporters and other disorder.
Sunderland AFC has also issued a stronger, controversial statement following Coventry’s historic 5-4 victory at the Stadium of Light in Wearside on Saturday (April 13). Coventry City has responded with a more moderate and measured statement appealing for mutual respect between a minority of fans on both sides.
While the vast majority of the 2,800 Coventry fans who made the 450-mile round trip enjoyed the Sky Blues’ first ever 5-4 away victory, some Sunderland fans took to social media to complain.
A YouTube video of a Sunderland fan bizarrely remonstrating with the statue to Jimmy Hill outside the Ricoh Arena earlier this season reflects a hostility among some Black Cats’ fans to the Sky Blues that dates back to the 1970s when Hill was club chairman.
A statement from Northumbria Police on its website reads: “Match commander condemns small minority who threw objects in the stadium and police working with club to find those responsible.
“Officers are investigating pockets of disorder at the Sunderland v Coventry City game at the Stadium of Light yesterday (Saturday, April 13) afternoon.
“Police dealt with pockets of disorder during and after the match and officers are also investigating reports of objects being thrown from the away end into the stands below.
“Northumbria Police has confirmed it is working with Sunderland AFC and Coventry City FC as they investigate the matter.”
Match commander chief inspector Jamie Pitt said: “While the majority of fans who attended the match behaved incredibly well, the actions of a small minority have spoilt the day for many and this is totally unacceptable.
“Notwithstanding there was a notable steward and police presence at the ground for the match we are aware of the issue of objects being thrown from the away end.
“There is absolutely no place in football for this sort of behaviour and we are working closely with both clubs to help locate those responsible and we will take action on anyone found to be involved.
“A spokesperson from Sunderland AFC said: ‘Sunderland AFC is disappointed by the disrespectful behaviour of many away fans at the home match against Coventry City yesterday.
‘SAFC and Northumbria Police had been in contact with both Coventry and its fans group ahead of the game, acknowledging that there would likely be some sort of protest, and trying to ensure that the match could go ahead in a safe and respectful environment for both sets of fans.
‘That turned out not to be the case, with Sunderland fans in the lower tier of the North Stand being subjected to projectiles thrown from the upper tier, where away fans were housed. Several Sunderland fans were either injured by the projectiles or had property damaged by smoke bombs thrown from above.
‘There were numerous other offences committed, all of which were especially disappointing given Sunderland AFC ‘s willingness to speak to Coventry fans ahead of the game.
‘In response, Sunderland fans demonstrated admirable restraint in the circumstances, for which the club is grateful.’
“Police made eight arrests in total on Saturday resulting in one man being charged with breaching a football banning order, two men were charged with public order offences and three men were released under common law with two men facing no further action.
“Five further people were ejected for breach of ground regulations.
“Anyone with any information about the incident is asked to contact police on 101 quoting reference 382 13/04/19.”
Coventry City response:
A spokesperson said: “Coventry City is aware of reports on social media and from Sunderland supporters regarding incidents in the North Stand at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
“We will work with the Sunderland and the appropriate bodies wherever necessary to investigate any incidents that took place, and take action if appropriate as a result of the investigations.
“We are also aware of reports from Sky Blues fans regarding incidents outside of the ground, and will also investigate these with the appropriate bodies.
“This follows incidents between Coventry City and Sunderland fans earlier in the season, when steps were required to protect the Jimmy Hill Statue and the Memorial Garden at the Ricoh Arena and fans confronted each other in Car Park B.
“We would urge fans of both clubs to show restraint and respect for each other in any future fixtures between the two sides, and ensure a safe, enjoyable and welcoming environment for all supporters.
“Coventry City will not be making any further comment.”
Northumbria Police has confirmed that of the eight arrests, two are Sunderland fans and six are Sky Blues fans.
Two Coventry fans have now been charged.
Ben Thackery, 36, of Delamere, Bedworth, has been charged with a public order offence.
And Daniel Nealon, 28, of David Wood Drive, Coventry, has also been charged with a public order offence.
Sunderland fan Steven Thomas Goodey, 35, of Springwell Road, Sunderland, was also charged with breach of a banning order.
They will all appear before South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on April 30.
Three other city fans have been common law released while another will face no further action.