Amongst the increasingly saddening stories coming from the Stadium of Light recently was the news that season card renewals have pretty much halved. That is of little surprise really given the debacle over the whole renewal process. The club of course blamed Covid-19 which, to my mind, is Nero fiddling while Rome burns as it ignores the absolute shambles of public relations at the club at the minute. Just when you think they couldn’t treat loyal fans with any more contempt, they do it again.
No refunds for season card holders until after the date when next season was due to start. You also have to apply or you get a cashback thing applied to your account although I’m still not entirely sure what that entails. Legally, if I’m due a refund then the only thing that should prevent me from getting that refund is the statute of limitations which means that I can ask for my money back at any time in the next six years; of course, I’m not likely to take the club to court for what will be a relatively minor sum. Unless of course they continue to treat me with contempt, in which case, I will. I would quote the consumer protection act, but substandard products have been prevalent for years now. That is the utterly scandalous position the club have found themselves in with supporters now, and that’s with a PR guru involved!
So how disengaged do you feel right now? How are you feeling about the breakdown of the club? Personally, I feel as despondent as I have ever felt which is probably appropriate as we are at the lowest point in our entire history. There are five stages of grief and I flit between them all bar one on a regular basis in terms of my relationship with the club. The stages are denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. It’s the last of these which I refuse to countenance. We ran a poll on ALS Twitter recently to gauge the feeling of fans and it linked in with the four stages of grief on the presumption that nobody is prepared to accept the status quo. Perhaps that is wrong, but Twitter only lets you put four options in a poll so sorry about that. If you do accept the status quo then you accept that we belong in League One at the moment, things may get better and we might improve. If you are at that stage then in some ways I envy you, however, the results from the poll show that many are like me.
In this stage you will be avoiding the obvious, you may even be elated oddly enough. You could be getting excited about visiting Accrington yet again and let’s not forget that we also have Northampton to look forward to. In this group you probably think that Covid will be long gone by the start of the season and we’ll all be sat down for the opener which definitely won’t be a Joey Barton shutout for a 1-0 defeat to Fleetwood. If you are in this group you probably need to move on. 15% on the poll said “We’ll be fine, eventually”. Given the fate of Bury and the narrow survival (in a financial sense) of Bolton and the uncertain future of Wigan; that is no longer certain for any club in League One or League Two and for many in the Championship. Our academy assets are being sold, our number one goalkeeper has been sold. The future looks rather bleak.
“I detest the owners” drew in a surprisingly low 8%. I say surprisingly low, but that is based largely on the comments on social media. There are moments where that anger rises, for example the season card debacle or when yet another prospect exits or when we’re linked with another diminutive central midfielder. My expectation was that there would be more people in this category, but maybe we caught you on a good day. Alternatively, perhaps many of you have already gone past the anger stage.
Helplessness is the overwhelming feeling you will have if you are sat in this group. This option on the poll returned 54% of people saying “We’re fucked”. 54% of the people who replied to the poll are left feeling helpless and in flight mode. This mirrors the huge drop in season card renewals and represents a serious problem for the club. Every single piece of news that comes from the club at the moment is negative and the fact that a new man is leading the fan communications and decision making with nothing coming from Stewart Donald just adds to that general feeling of malaise. The depression stage means you are tired of flogging that horse which certainly seems to be devoid of a heartbeat at the moment.
Are you struggling to find meaning in all of this? Do you look at the events and say “We just need new owners”? If so, you may well be in the bargaining stage. You aren’t ready to let go yet but you aren’t far off. New owners would, perhaps, be a good solution. With rumours of shenanigans at Wigan and questions over the fit and proper person test within the EFL I have less faith. Stewart Donald has always said he would only sell to someone capable of taking the club forward but as time draws on and cash flow tightens at the club you have to ask whether that will be the ultimate result. FPP have had their gaze averted to a team in red and white stripes a little further south and the promise of summer club sales have been impacted by the pandemic. A takeover may not be the silver bullet we hope for, the alternative seems unpalatable. 23% of respondents were in this group.
If we ran the poll again we would probably get different results because it depends on your current mood. The fact is that we are all mourning what's happening at the club at the moment. There are proposals from Red and White Army to convert into a supporters trust and they will be asking members to vote on that. This may be a positive step and it may well be needed in a worst case scenario. No matter how faint the heartbeat is at the moment do not give up. Things will get better. I promise.