On Thursday in a Covid affected world we had the unusual experience of Sunderland supporters from across the world (and Bish Vegas) joining up via Zoom to hold a vote that, on the face of it, might seem to many a bit of a meaningless event. Like holding up a paper bag to defend yourself when Mike Tyson is swinging his fist.
When the Madrox piss taking party stoppers rolled into town they empowered Sunderland fans, meeting them outside the ground, supping pints in the Colliery, getting them to fit seats. We had reconnected after years of seeing the club as a distant thing. We were subservient fans who turned up to be entertained by a Texan billionaire and the entertainment had dried up. Now the club was ours and they were mere custodians. When we wanted them out they would leave. Fair deal. Unfortunately, it transpires that to want them out costs £37 million pounds. Stewart Donald even said that if Sunderland fans wanted to show him the money then he would sell to them. Anybody got that kind of cash?
Of course, since those halcyon days things have, well, changed a bit and not just at Sunderland. The Covid cloud swept across Europe and absolutely threatened the futures of many clubs outside the Premier League. Damian Collins came up with proposals that suggested a Football Finance Authority could bail out clubs in exchange for shares which could ultimately be passed on to trusts. Great idea. Supported by Charlie Methven who thinks people from the North East lack any entrepreneurial intelligence. In amongst the statement was a paragraph that may have been swept over. Attracting finance from potential new owners in situations like these will be almost impossible.
The proposals were good proposals and if those proposals are ever to be realised then Sunderland needs to be in a position to take advantage. At the moment we do not have a supporter’s trust. We do not have a trust regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. That changed on Thursday. A vote, a unanimous vote bar a couple of abstentions, meant that Red and White army is to convert into a supporter’s trust. That doesn’t mean you will get shares if you join the trust. What it means is that there is an audible, accountable body of supporters who will operate on a one member one vote system. You could put £50,000 into the trust; you could put £5. You have an equal voice.
The wheels are now in motion to push the official registration through and we voted to set the contribution to the trust at £5 per year. So, for £5 a year you now get a say in the action the fan groups take and, who knows, maybe in the future some shares. What difference does it make immediately? Well little apart from accountability.
RAWA have done some great things already, let’s not forget that their minutes from the meeting suggested that Stewart Donald was a little pissed off at them. Aside from that, they set up the fag display, they secured the mural, they support the foodbanks. The people at the top challenge the owners through fan representation meetings; and by all accounts the lines between the two are tense. If you pay your £5 you can tell them to ease off. If everyone agrees with you then you can rely on them to ease off. This is an audible and accountable trust that represents you as the fan. I’m not going to say you have to sign up or anything like that, you don’t even need to be a RAWA member to be a trustee. Isn’t this a positive step forward though? We are one of the biggest clubs without a supporter’s trust. Now we have one. Get on it folks, RAWA will be releasing details of how to get involved.