It’s never been a perfect relationship, no relationship is. Of all the ‘ride or die’ commitments one can make in life, your devotion to your chosen football club is the one that least resembles the Hollywood fairy-tale of happy ever after.
But this is different, fundamentally, the club that I met and fell in love with all those years ago has gone. I do not think the situation is completely irredeemable but the effort, good faith and sheer determination required to fix it is not represented in the current ownership and there is simply no evidence to suggest that they will one day happen upon it or transfer ownership to stewards with those qualities.
In two years, Messrs Donald and Methven have managed to achieve something Ellis Short in all his well-meaning but astonishing incompetency could not in ten. They have engineered a situation in which I (and many others) cannot in all good conscience validate their continued stewardship of the club by renewing my season ticket.
This was an incredibly difficult decision and one I did not take lightly. It also has nothing to do with a third consecutive season in League One. I am not disillusioned with a lack of success; I’m not fed up with crap football. Well, I am, but that is not why I cancelled my season ticket.
I have concluded that handing over another year of my money is tacit approval of the abusive relationship we find ourselves in with the people running our club into the ground. To be clear, this is a personal decision. Please not think I am suggesting that everyone has chosen to renew is helping screw the club. I do not think that at all. This is a personal and private protest. This is all I could think to do.
I watched Sunderland struggle in what was the First Division in the shadow of Keegan’s swashbuckling Newcastle as they charmed the nation. I sat and listened to thousands upon thousands of away fans abuse us over the Adam Johnson saga. I went mental as a fucking fascist managed us to a win at SJP. My standards and expectations are low. By any standard they are glued to the ground.
But still, I cannot accept this. I cannot accept joking about the latest round of lies from the boardroom whilst giving them my money. I cannot continue to normalise the actions of a regime so intent on pocketing our money and offering literally nothing in return. It’s not even the insidious nature of their actions, it’s the fact that they are so brazen about how they little they think of us. That is why I forgave Short where I cannot forgive this lot. Short was at least trying, without doubt his naivety and inability to formulate and stick to a strategy laid us bare to the existential crisis we find ourselves in. But at least he knew it, at least he admitted, at least he was trying.
So, aside from cancelling a direct debit and spitting your dummy out on the laptop, what can be done? The short answer (pun unintended) is very little in relative terms. But there are courses of action open to the fans that could have a significant impact on the future of the club. The immediate concern is the narrative that it is us and our attitude that is putting off potential suitors. Whilst this is clearly total bollocks and something made up by the Donald to justify his unwillingness to sell the club, it should be tackled head on. I would like to see fans and fan groups organise a sustained effort to push stories highlighting the truth that Sunderland’s fan base is not only committed to its success but also a huge asset in attaining it.
We could also look at the long term. Stewart Donald will leave us one day. No matter how long it takes and what he leaves behind, eventually someone else will take the reins. As fans, we are well within our rights to expect a degree of participation in the running of the club, not just a token meeting here and there with disputed minutes issued online. Though organised representation we need to push for a permanent presence on the board. Instead of a continued obsession with models of running a club that apparently guarantee success, we should look at models of running a club that highlight genuine transparency help guard against shysters rocking up to pull our pants down.
Finally, we need to stick together. Everyone has an opinion on the club, whether you agree with it or not, its valid. Hear people out. There are plenty people who were genuinely excited and enthused by the current owners back in 2018 who are now determined to see them run out of the town. I’m one of them. It doesn’t mean they were wrong then or they are wrong now. When the facts change, so should your mind. The same goes for the team, Parkinson’s first three months were awful. It was right to say so. When the team’s fortunes changed in the new year it was ok to be happy about it, it didn’t mean you were wrong before. As fans we know a shared victory is sweeter and a shared defeat is easier to take, so let’s continue to have each other’s back.
I digress, getting back to my original point, the club desperately needs fundamental change that we could and should play a massive part in. But until that happens, I cannot to continue to help fund the current scenario.
Break ups are often described as ‘mutual’, that the two newly single protagonist’s ‘wish each other well’. It is always ‘no one’s fault’.
That is not what has happened here. I have not changed. Sunderland has.