Gary Hutchinson Sheds Light On 'The Fort' Incident

Following on from the story that dominated headlines in Wearside last week - where the club and local alehouse The Fort were involved in a dispute - Sunderland's current Commercial Director Gary Hutchinson has moved to provide greater information for fans and media alike.

After last week's news broke, Sunderland fans were almost universal in the condemnation of the club's actions. Many felt that the letter the club sent to pub landlord Alan Wallace, one in which they threatened "further action" if Mr Wallace did not comply, was overly harsh.

The matter was of course resolved, with The Fort now the latest member of the club's new rewards scheme for fans. However, realising the need to put a human face on recent events, Sunderland's Commercial Director has offered his own views on the matter, as well as discussing the realities of running a top division club.

Speaking in an exclusive interview, published in today's Sunderland Echo, Hutchinson was adamant to point out that he understands what the club means to fans:

I fully understand the passion in the city. As someone who was born in Hylton Red House and has lived in the city all his life.

I understand the passion around football, how much the people in the city think of the club and how much the club thinks of its fans.

We are very proud of our supporters wanting to wear their colours and wanting to support the club and be part of what we are doing.

However, Hutchinson - in a clear attempt to explain the club's actions over the matter - went on to say:

But we also need to protect the club.

We have to protect the club and its trademarks to ensure we can get maximum value from commercial deals.

With the club actively involved in furthering its global profile and widening its links both inside and outside the football world, Hutchinson's remarks suggested that the club is simply taking every possible precaution to make sure Sunderland AFC doesn't risk its image. He said:

What we want from a football club is to maximise our opportunities in order to allow us to compete in the Barclays Premier League, to challenge the top clubs while maintaining a realistic pricing structure so our fans can afford to follow the team.

We want as many people to support the club and get behind the team as possible.

In the article itself (on pages 8 and 9 of today's Sunderland Echo, or to be found online HERE), Hutchinson goes on to more specifically outline the role the club plays in Wearside's economy, outlining the aims and objectives of the club in the future.

In truth, the comments offered here by the club are a bit of a mixed bag. They tell us why the club is so keen to protect its image - but they don't go very far in suggesting how The Fort pub was in any way endangering that same image.

Still, this should be seen as a good move by the club and by Hutchinson in particular. By putting himself forward for questioning - something he certainly didn't have to do - the Commercial Director has helped to restore the link between club and fan.

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