Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 10:59 UK

Drug addicts gifted Toon tickets

Newcastle United fans
The scheme has been running for more than 10 years

Drug addicts are being given tickets to Premiership football matches to help them on the road to recovery.

Newcastle United has been gifting tickets from four season tickets to Drug and Alcohol Action Teams (DAAT) throughout the North East of England.

The drug users are accompanied to the games at St James' Park by their support workers.

North East MEP Martin Callanan has criticised the scheme, saying it "rewards" illegal behaviour.

The Conservative member said: "What about people who didn't get into trouble in the first place, who live their lives, work hard and pay their taxes?

"It's like these schemes the local authorities come up with to send young criminals on outward bound course.

"It's rewarding bad behaviour when we should be rewarding well-behaved youngsters."

'Generous gesture'

The Government Office for the North East has helped the club distribute the tickets for more than 10 years.

A spokesman for the office said they were given to those who had shown a "genuine commitment" to tackle their substance abuse.

He said: "The tickets are provided on the understanding that they are used, as part of a package of measures, to particularly help young people who have had substance misuse problems, and are making clear progress and showing a genuine commitment to living a normal, structured life.

"We thank the club for this generous gesture that goes a long way towards re-introducing people to a structured way of life."


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