England: Sunderland's blunder ahead of Newcastle derby has outraged fans

source: StadiumDB.com; author: Miguel Ciolczyk Garcia

England: Sunderland's blunder ahead of Newcastle derby has outraged fans You know that awkward feeling when someone tries 'too hard' to be nice? That's exactly how Sunderland fans felt when, for the Tyne-Wear Derby, the club, wanting rival fans to feel at home, made Sunderland fans feel like they were playing away.


The age-old rivalry between North East clubs

The football rivalry between Sunderland's Black Cats and Newcastle's Magpies dates back to 1898, when the first match between the two teams took place, ending in a 2-0 result for the Red and Whites. Since then, 156 more matches have been played and the balance until recently was 50 draws and 53 wins for each team.

For this reason, the FA Cup match was to be decisive. The winner would overtake their rival in a race that has more than once manifested itself in clashes with the police, the disruption of matches or set-ups between supporter groups. One of these shocked the public in March 2000 and was dubbed one of the worst fights( …) ever to take place in Britain. It was even compared to scenes from the movie Braveheart.

Stadium of Light© Heather Ormsby

A clumsy attempt to create a friendly atmosphere

To create a welcoming atmosphere, Sunderland’s authorities decided to decorate the Black Cat's Bar, located at the Stadium of Light with the colours and slogans of the Magpies ahead of the 3rd round of the FA Cup, which was due to take place on January 6. In addition to the slogans 'We are United' and 'Keep the Black White flying high', part of Sunderland's signature slogan 'Ha'way the Lads' was crossed out in black paint and replaced with Newcastle’s 'Howay the Lads'.

The gesture was 'appreciated' by the Newcastle United Supporters' Club a few days before the game, writing on Twitter (X) "Can't fault the hospitality of our hosts this weekend" and sharing photos from inside the bar. Social media was flooded with first a wave of disbelief and then fury from Black Cats’ fans.

Stadium of Light© only lines

Club apologises for ‘error’, owner 'disgusted' and ‘hurt’

In response, the club issued a statement saying there had been a "serious error in judgement", apologised to supporters and said it would restore the bar to its original appearance. Sunderland owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus also apologised and asserted that he felt "disgusted and hurt" but took "full responsibility" for the situation. Eventually the Black Cats' bar was covered back up with Sunderland’s slogans and colours before the game, but it was too late to stop the news from spreading. Pictures of the unfortunate captions had already circulated the world and the image of the owner and the club's governing body was severely damaged.

In the match that took place two days after the incident, Premier League runners-up Newcastle beat seventh-placed in Championship Sunderland 0:3, scoring their 54th victory, one ahead of the Black Cats. The Magpies' fans celebrated the victory in the bar that had been restored to its original look, while the Sunderland authorities and all the clubs in the world were given a stark reminder that hospitality cannot be exaggerated.

Stadium of Light© Roy Richard Llowarch