Red and White Army’s survey results are in, and for Stewart Donald they don’t make pretty reading. Before analysing the results however, it is important to put the whole thing in context and for that we must go back to the very start of RAWA.
The group was set up not as a protest group or a fan action group, they were set up to improve the experience of being a Sunderland fan with representation from a wide spectrum where diversity was paramount. You cannot represent a fanbase at a meeting with the club if you only make up a small proportion of the views in a stadium which holds 49,000 people and reaches people above and beyond this number. That is the reason they opened membership, that is the reason they insisted on democratic processes to get people involved. If you, your dad or your Uncle John wanted to get involved you could. With a direct link in to the Football Supporters’ Association there was a wealth of experience focussed purely on what it was like to be a Sunderland fan and the explanation for that is simple, RAWA are Sunderland fans. As time drew on and the clouds gathered in terms of the team’s performance or the erosion of the Academy, murals and flags in the stadium became almost secondary to taking action to protect the fans and in December a joint statement was released. Roker Report, Wise Men Say, ALS and Red and White Army acted together.
It is important to note that the statement happened around the same time as a particularly volatile meeting with the club, which Stewart Donald acknowledges and (according to RAWA’s minutes) has dealt with. Given that people who are unpaid and are trying to do their best to make things better for the fans and given the fact that they themselves are fans it was disappointing to see them criticised in some ways for that statement. They never claimed to speak for fans, they spoke for themselves and other fans stood shoulder to shoulder with them. Wind the clock forward a few months and there are few who would say they were wrong. Suddenly, RAWA were a protest group. In Stewart Donald’s last meeting with them he singled them out for criticism; for not doing what he said, for asking the wrong questions in his view. That should never be a criticism levied at fans who only have the good of the club as their motivation.
So, then the survey came out. I’m not myopic enough to insist that the survey was not written from a certain perspective; it was far from neutral. What I will say is that the lack of neutrality was entirely of the moment, “on trend” as those younger than me might say. The mood of the room has degenerated into anger and frustration at a perceived lack of ambition, of foresight, of long-term planning. Is it possible to see what the next few years have in store anymore? A bland polling survey may have produced even starker results. Are you happy with the club yes/no? I suspect the results of that would have been overwhelmingly no.
Turning to the analysis of the survey itself RAWA have acknowledged they are not statisticians, but they have clearly been bruised by accusations of claiming to represent the fans. This is difficult to see. They shouldn’t need to justify the results. The opportunity to be part of RAWA is available to each and every supporter regardless of whether you’re pro or anti Donald or entirely ambivalent.
Justify it they did though and hats off to them for that, they even acknowledged that the same IP addresses had been used before stating quite reasonably that there might be more than one Sunderland supporter living in a house, something the club failed to acknowledge when streaming passes were given as a sweetener for season card holders. The results of the survey are, by and large, meaningless. I say that with absolute respect to RAWA because they needed to do the survey. The results show exactly what many of us are already thinking. The season card debacle was atrocious and has disintegrated engagement, the Academy is a concern, we do not like the owners.
None of this is news. For those who disagree I would urge you to sign up to Red and White Army and attend their Emergency General meeting tonight. I have my views on what needs to happen and I will take those with me, yours may differ, but do not come back after action is taken and accuse RAWA of assuming to be the voice of the fans if you have sat on your hands and done absolutely nothing. Now more than ever we need to unite and figure out how we get out of this mess. Join up and have your say. Please.