Apathy is the word that has been used to sum up the mood amongst the Sunderland fanbase over the past year or so.
Understandably, people are feeling punch-drunk from the never-ending cycle of defeats that have engulfed the club since the departure of Sam Allardyce in the summer of 2016.
But at The Peacock on Wednesday night, there was nothing apathetic about the 120 people that packed out the venue. A panel including RAWA chairman, Andrew Hird, Policy Co-coordinator, David Rose, myself and former SAFC legend, Gordon Armstrong took questions from the audience for over two hours with a range of passionate views being aired throughout.
The main topics of discussion on the night were the progress made by the organisation since our inception in September 2017, setting the agenda for the forthcoming meeting with Martin Bain and potential ideas for supporters wishing to protest.
Wednesday’s open meeting demonstrated how far the RAWA have come in a relatively short space of time and proved that there is an appetite for change.
Naturally, there have been sceptics who see the organisation as a continuation of existing supporter groups. The aim is not to undermine the good work they have undertaken over the years but to build on it and offer a fresh, alternative voice.
One advantage we have is the range of voices and opinions on offer within the group. We have co-opted representatives from a number of fanzines, but more importantly our representatives come from a wide range of backgrounds and different walks of life. Dave Rose has a wealth of experience in dealing with the Premier League and the FA in his day job at the Football Supporters Federation, as well as having a disabled supporters rep, junior supporter’s rep, LGBT rep, SAFC ladies’ rep and former players rep in Gordon Armstrong.
This structure has many advantages, it means that a wide range of views have a fair representation and it means that we have a range of capable people who can hold the club to account over specific issues.
Unfortunately, since the inception of the RAWA, results on the pitch have been awful which means that the talk of protests is very much on our collective radars and we have made it clear that if an idea gets significant interest we have no qualms about leading one, but the group was not set up with this sole aim in mind.
The idea for the group was actually established during our Premier League campaign but did not come to fruition because our plan was to not be entirely reactionary and we intend to remain for years after Elis Short and Martin Bain leave the club. Therefore, it is so crucial to have the range of views and opinions which we do, because concerns are fluid. If we turn things around on the field at any point, priorities will turn from protest and some other issues will come to the forefront.
In this instance we will be able to send corresponding people into meetings with the club. For instance, if a disabled rep was concerned over poor facilities at the Stadium, he would logically be the most qualified person to challenge the club on this.
From a personal perspective, it has been a good group to be involved in, at first, I was concerned that my age (22) might inhibit me, and my views would not be taken as seriously as more experienced members.
However, on Wednesday night I ended up assisting with hosting the open meeting, which demonstrates the willingness to trust all members with responsibility and not limit it to a select few.
So far, we have been successful in securing structured dialogue with the club and have another meeting planned for April 4th, where we will be asking questions which we have composed with the help of the supporters who attended the open meeting on Wednesday night. In the future we aim to keep this dialogue going and more importantly holding the club to account.
Fully minuted meetings will provide you with updates and if the club are not being forthcoming with your concerns we will be able to put this in the public domain and hold them to account. We also launched a petition against Elis Short in February, which attracted over 10,000 signatures, this action may seem weak to some, but it was useful to gauge the public mood and was at the very least a show of dissatisfaction which drew attention to our plight. Hopefully, with your support we can continue to grow and be representative of your views and opinions.
For more info, or to join http://redandwhitearmy.co.uk/