There have been a number of articles in a range of publications over the last couple of months offering opinions on why everything has to change at Sunderland AFC. There were then more criticising those articles for either being too harsh or, quite often, not harsh enough on the current owners.
But none have talked about what needs to happen to move the club forwards and if there’s one thing we can all agree on it’s a need to move forwards, a need to find a path for this club to return to the top two divisions of English football and to be talked about by others as a respected (or hated if you prefer) competitor, not with the pity or ridicule the club currently faces from other clubs’ fans.
The only way to start a journey forwards is to know where we are now. Whether we’re Donald in, Donald out or even ‘who is Donald?’, we need to know where the club is in terms of their plans and also how the majority of the fans feel. Is the intention to sell or not? Are they looking for others to invest in their dream? If that’s the case, what is their dream? What recruitment procedures are in place for the appointment of key staff and board members?
We need answers, not to judge or condemn, but simply to grasp the facts of the owner’s and the board’s position and then make our decisions based on those answers. I was pleased to read the article in Roker Report asking these questions and would encourage other fans groups and local journalists to keep asking questions they want answering.
I’m also delighted to hear that Red and White Army are asking members and potential members to offer their thoughts on how the fans feel. It is right that, while fanzines and podcasts can offer the opinions of individual fans and groups, Red and White Army are the correct organisation to be the link between the fans and the club and, by contributing to their survey, fans can have their say and the journey can begin.
Without a dialogue between the club and fans there can be no meaningful future relationship. In any business an open and truthful relationship between the company, its directors and their customers is important. When that business sits at the heart of a community and the customers are its members, that honesty and openness becomes essential.
Fans failing to challenge the club’s owners, or worse, arguing between themselves is the best possible outcome for those who currently hold the keys to the club. If we all stand around on the outside while they carry on inside, nothing improves but no one in the club is challenged.
The inevitable reply from the owners might well be, as it has been before, that this level of questioning shows why people won’t invest and won’t want to sponsor the club. My reply to that is simple. If a potential owner is looking to invest in a club with huge potential to reach the Premier League and help young players develop and mature within our academy, supported by loyal fans who will support the team through the highs and lows of whatever the sport has to throw at them, look no further, we will welcome you with open arms.
If you’re looking to promote yourself and your ego with little care for the community you are looking to become part of while attempting to line your pockets with questionable business tactics, we’d rather you stayed out of the sport altogether.
I encourage fans to get involved, ask questions and, through RAWA, speak to the club.