Andrew Hird, interim chairman of new Sunderland fan group Red & White Army, spoke to the Roker Rapport podcast yesterday, and fielded several questions about just what the group hopes to achieve.
After some small pleasantries, the
interrogation questions soon began to flow, and Andrew was eager to point out that:
Ultimately, we’re wanting to give a voice to all Sunderland supporters. What we’re looking to do is enter into structured dialogue with the club with a goal of strengthening the relationship between the club and supporters.
The lads on the show pressed for more information about the new group and specifically what the group hoped to achieve. Again Andrew responded well, and offered clarity - including an impressive number of new recruits despite only being operational for the last ten days:
We’ve already got in excess of two-thousand supporters on-board, so there’s an appetite there for supporters to be given a voice, and for the club to listen. Ultimately, what we’re looking to do is engage in structured dialogue with the club; the main aim is to be of benefit to the supporters, but the club can get something out of this as well in terms of canvassing support and trying to rebuild bridges that have been burnt over recent years through the lack of interaction with supporters.
Today we have formally requested a meeting with SAFC pic.twitter.com/HRbdfhIwac— Red & White Army (@RedAndWhite2017) September 30, 2017
Ultimately, this isn’t a group seemingly look to push their own agendas, and the interim chair wanted all fans to know that it would be their opinions that dictated the groups’ direction and aims:
We’re looking for fans to engage with us, we’re going to have a dedicated point of contact in an email address, so supporters can raise any pertinent comments or concerns that they’d like to be flagged for discussion.
Andrew went on to note that the group will identify common themes from fan interaction and use those as the basis for an agenda at the group’s open meetings going forward. Those concerns will then be discussed in the aforementioned open meetings and potentially voted upon if need be.
In essence though, it was clear to see that the group were interested in the opinion of the fans, and little else as they look to enact change at a club struggling both on and off the pitch.
We are a democratic organization ultimately; everybody is allowed their say, everybody is allowed to discuss things.
There has been a breakdown in trust and dialogue between the supporters and the club for a number of years now. There’s not as much transparency as there possibly could be, and I think there is a general fan perception at the minute that’s either apathy ... or there’s a lot of frustration from supporters.
The point of this organization is to help build bridges with the club, but at the same time it’s also there to empower supporters.
Andrew discussed the fact that many fans feel like they’ve been “kept in the dark” by the club and provided examples from last season to reinforce his claims. He asked why did the club shrink into the shadows as the season progressively became worse, when that was the time we needed them to communicate with us the most? Ultimately Hird noted that “uncertainty leads to apathy or frustration,” and that is what the group hoped to eliminate - that awful uncertainty through dialogue and clarity.
Our 1st meeting, on Tuesday, is free to attend for all members. Click here to register your place: https://t.co/jLYCr6c5C3— Red & White Army (@RedAndWhite2017) September 30, 2017
See you there!
When asked about existing groups, Andrew was keen to state that “first and foremost, the existing groups, they do a hell of a job in terms of engaging with the club.” Andrew praised their experience and efforts, and added that the Red and White Army wasn’t attempting - or indeed wanting - to replace their positions, but merely wanted to find a way to provide a voice for a wider variety of fans at the club.
Social media and a website connect with a larger audience that offers a wider variety of opinions and ideas, and the inclusion of a LGBTQ officer was just one example of the progressive role the group hopes to fulfill.
It’s clear to see that the Read & White Army have momentum and honest intentions, but its effectiveness is down to you! So get involved and hold your head high in the knowledge that you are actively trying to better our beloved club.
The first meeting is this coming Tuesday (October 3rd) at The Peacock in Sunderland city centre, and will begin at 18:30. Those hoping to attend are asked to register their interest first, and if that applies to you then click on the link below!
Red & White Army media channels: