A new dedicated police team will be in charge of policing all football matches on Tyneside this season.
From this weekend fans attending games at the homes of Newcastle United, Sunderland AFC and Gateshead FC will start to see familiar faces in uniform before, during and after matches.
And travelling supporters will also be joined by the same officers on away trips.
Northumbria Police has set up its new ‘Football Neighbourhood Policing Team’ in a bid to replicate the success of community policing across the force area among the football community.
The squad of 24 officers will be tasked with helping fans enjoy all football fixtures in safety, while gathering intelligence about suspected troublemakers and hooligans.
The team, who are all experienced at policing football games, will also liaise with businesses near local football stadiums to help them deal with any issues that arise on match days.
Chief Supt Steve Neill, Northumbria Police’s strategic lead for football, said he hoped the new team would help form a closer working relationship between fans, football clubs, and the police.
“This is the first time Northumbria Police has had a dedicated Football Neighbourhood Policing Team and we’re confident the experienced officers we have appointed will help keep one of the North East’s favourite sports safe and enjoyable for all,” he said.
He said the new team would also help police get tough on those intent on using football to cause trouble.
“We will still focus on potential offenders that want to get involved in disorder,” he continued. “And our experience of neighbourhood policing elsewhere in the force shows that when you gain the trust of the community it does lead to increased intelligence. It’s an age old concept of policing and this could be a positive side effect of setting up this team.
“The vast majority of people that go to go football matches go for the right reasons and when there is disorder they are the first ones to challenge it.”
The team’s work will begin this weekend with the first Premier League games of the season when Newcastle United takes on Man City at St James’ Park and Sunderland travel to The Hawthorns for their clash with West Brom.
Newcastle United fans’ representative, Steve Hastie, added: “I think it is fantastic Northumbria Police are providing a neighbourhood-style of policing for football. It gives the supporters the reassurance that police will not only keep match days safe and in order but can provide information and safety advice to anyone going to the game.”
And Steve Storey, head of safety and security at Newcastle United said: “Newcastle United are fully supportive of the reintroduction of a dedicated Football Unit and we look forward to working closely with it to provide an enhanced service to our supporters.”