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The St James' Park crowd are expected to provide a hostile reception for the controversial Paolo Di Canio, but authorities have warned them not to overstep the mark

Newcastle fans have been warned by police they may face arrest should they taunt Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio with fascist salutes during the north-east derby on Sunday.

The Italian has rarely been out of the headlines since his arrival at the Stadium of Light, largely due to his politicial beliefs, and police feel this topic may well represent ammunition for a hostile home crowd.

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However, local police chief superintendent Steve Neill is adamant that such abuse would not be taken lightly by the authorities, who will be monitoring the crowd throughout the match.

"Offensive behaviour can constitute a criminal offence and such behaviour is taken seriously," Neill told Sky Sports.

"Offensive gestures, particularly those with a suggestion of racist connotations, are completely unacceptable and we will take positive action against anyone seen acting in an offensive or racist manner.

"While some individuals may see this sort of behaviour as a means of poking fun at opposing fans - it is not a joke.

"Football matches are routinely monitored by CCTV and even if action is not taken during the match, it can be checked retrospectively.

"We have demonstrated on numerous previous occasions our ability to trace offenders and put them before the courts, which can lead to a criminal record and possible football banning order.

"I would urge fans to act responsibly and reflect upon the impact any form of disorder or offensive behaviour has on others, themselves, the reputation of both clubs and the North East."

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