An Analogy...

February 12, 2018

If I owned and rented out property, I’d have a duty as a landlord to make it habitable for my tenants. I would be expected to maintain the property and pay for repairs – not just cover the mortgage and leave it to rot – so why does the same not apply to Ellis Short? I wouldn’t be able to just wash my hands of my responsibilities just because I wanted to sell up and neither should he.

 

Our club is slowly dying yet he has been allowed to slink off into the American sunset whilst we’re left to face the music. He is shirking his responsibilities as owner and chairman of the board, something he has criticised former players and managers for in the past.

 

In his absence, Martin Bain has overseen a period of severe austerity, leaving the team in an uphill battle to survive in the Championship. No doubt Bain is following Short’s orders to cut costs, but to me it seems like another example of Short trusting the wrong man and paying him a small fortune to be taken for a ride. It takes no skill to slash all budgets across the board without considering the repercussions. Who exactly is Bain answerable to? Short claims to be as committed and involved in the club as ever, yet last month Bain confirmed that he and Short rarely speak other than when the bills are due to be paid. Someone is pulling the wool somewhere.

 

It’s not on. There is a complete lack of accountability at the club and no-one other than us fans asking the questions how the club plans to grow and progress.

 

I understand that some fans still feel a degree of sympathy towards Short for the amount of money he has lost, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s business. Every investment is a gamble, and if you go into business without the requisite skills and knowledge – or the right people in place to guide you – you’ll be eaten alive. It could be considered unfortunate for Short to be fooled once by charlatan managers or directors, or perhaps even part and parcel of football ownership, but to be fooled as much as Short has is gross incompetence.

 

But that’s almost irrelevant. Regardless of who is to blame, the point is that Short has a duty to put things right, not disappear off in the huff because he has lost money. I wonder how much sympathy my hypothetical tenants would feel if I’d employed cowboy builders to make improvements to properties – with the intention of increasing their value, protecting my assets and generating more money - only to walk away leaving their homes in ruin? Especially if one of those builders had no previous building experience or qualifications and had conned me into giving him a job because he was the son of my mate.

 

Very little is the answer. It just wouldn’t wash for me to sit in my mansion thousands of miles away trying to half-heartedly convince them that I was hurting as much as they were without doing anything about it.

 

Yes, Short is still covering our financial losses, but this is the bare minimum required to keep his investment afloat. If you listen to Bain’s propaganda – and certain sections of the local press – we should all be thankful and pat Short on the back for this, but we aren’t stupid and know that he has too much to lose to allow us to go out of business, including his reputation. He isn’t doing it out of the goodness of his heart.

 

To make it clear, I am not calling for Short to plough in another £50m in transfer funds. Nice as it would be, it goes without saying that it would be reckless and irresponsible to do so.

 

What I do want is to see evidence of leadership, accountability and a short, medium and long-term plan to get the club out of this mess and rebuild. We all know Short wants to sell the club and we are stuck in limbo until he finds a buyer, but that shouldn’t mean that the club is left on life support until that happens.

 

We as fans may not exactly be tenants paying rent to set up home in the SOL, but we still hand over hundreds of pounds each year to support our club and are constantly badgered by the club tugging on the heartstrings to bring a friend and cough up more. It’s supposed to be a two-way relationship but we are the only ones making any effort or fulfilling our end of the bargain.

 

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At the back end of the 1980s, football fanzines began to sweep the country and in 1989 we were presented with a new vehicle on which to enjoy some of this ride – A Love Supreme. ALS was a place we could all go to celebrate and commiserate being a Sunderland fan. Win, lose or draw, the pages of the fanzine became solace for many of us as we stumbled our way through our day to day lives, punctuated by the ups and downs of more match days than any of us care to remember.

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