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Hell freezes over as, amusingly, Sunderland AFC win an award for ‘Fan Engagement’

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How the hell did that happen? Sunderland AFC - yes that Sunderland AFC - have won an award for fan engagement. April Fool or gloriously deserved gong?

SAFC.com

My house, 9am, Twitter:

...What!?

Disbelief gives way to incredulity. Surely not, I think.

Surely, of all the clubs that are actually deserving of a fan engagement award Sunderland AFC are not that club? I have to discuss these problems at length.

Now between you and I, I had no idea what a Football Biz award was before this morning. Why would I? From a fan perspective it's just another tragic example of the corporatisation of the club, and the game as a whole. Well, the Football Business Awards are a thing and they're held annually.

Now, an explanation as to how Sunderland AFC “earned” their award.

You'll recall Sunderland's home kit launch - how could you forget it? With clubs like Southampton FC turning their players into superheroes in little cartoon adventures, Sunderland gave their home strip to two Sunday-league teams and had them duke it out in a friendly, whilst plastering “Our future is rooted in our history” all over the digital walls of social media.

SAFC 2016-17 Home Kit Launch

To celebrate the launch of the 2017-18 adidas Football home kit, #SAFC has handed over the spotlight to local players and supporters. Here are Dawdon Welfare Park FC sporting our new look as they take on Hall Farm Glasshus FC at Ashbrooke Cricket Club – of one SAFC’s former homes. Our future is rooted in our history. Pre-order the new kit NOW at http://www.safcstore.com

Posted by Sunderland AFC on Sunday, June 11, 2017

Like everything in corporate football, the decision – at first - seems to have been made by crunching the numbers.

In the statement on the Football Business Awards website, which you can read here, Sunderland AFC claim that 350,000+ watched the live stream of the game between the titans of Dawdon Welfare Park FC and the giants of Hall Farm Glasshus FC (making them both seem relatively normal-sized) and that their coverage of the launch reached over 1,000,000 people through their social media channels.

If this is something you think is factually accurate, I no longer have to wonder why there's no money left at this sodding club because apparently none of you can bloody count. I hope whoever came up with that statistic isn't the guy negotiating contracts, because Jack Rodwell's £65,000 a week is starting to make a whole new kind of sense to me.

Anyway, I digress. Further to my point, having looked through the other entries for the same award (Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Rangers, Arsenal, Manchester City and, er, Leyton Orient) it makes it all the more mysterious a conclusion to come to, that Sunderland AFC could be above and beyond all of these clubs in any area of business, let alone fan engagement.

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

But then you look at the proposals given by the individual clubs (I'm assuming they nominate themselves) as to why they should receive the award and things start to become a little clearer.

Of all the proposals available on footballbusinessawards.com, that which was given by Sunderland AFC was, I have to say, the loveliest. It was worded in such a way as to make the club seem in harmony with grassroots football and their own regional community. By comparison, some of the other proposals came across a little less humble: “Ey looccch, we're Liverpewl, 'gis the eweerd”.

I can't be the only one to notice that the club seem to be fighting more and more battles these days with a pen rather than the sword, and silver-tongued skullduggery is the name of the game when it comes to the intrigues of Bain's court.

At the end of the day it was just a little awards ceremony held entirely in honour of the corporate side of the club.

It isn't ever going to garner public interest (attendance of the event costs £225 per ticket, half the price of a Sunderland season card), so you might be able to forgive the audacity of celebrating anything when the club is in arguably the worst state it's ever been in, certainly of the last two decades. But from a personal perspective it's frustrating, as a fan, to hear that your relationship with me and tens of thousands of others like me is worthy of any kind of award.

That the award itself was for “Fan Engagement” is nothing short of funny considering the huge void that exists in this aspect of the club.

An entirely new supporters group was formed not two months ago specifically to deal with what fans feel is a gaping hole in fan - club communication.

It's a subject of national press attention that the fans are completely disconnected, with countless outlets and sources citing the cause as being “a rot” at the core of the club itself.

Mind, there's another definition for engagement: “a fight or battle between armed forces” - now that would be a far more apt way to describe the relationship between club and fans.

So, do anything else. Make up your own awards ceremony: the Bainsies, and give awards for financial frugality. Trophies for finishing everything on your plate in the canteen, or better yet – bringing a packed lunch. Plaques for stealing ketchup sachets from fast-food outlets and bringing them in to top up the stores. Medals for using individual squares of toilet paper, because toilet paper don't come cheap. Water in the beer and people Bain doesn't like in the pies.

I dunno, eh. Far be it from me to challenge a boozy night out in London for the poor sods toiling under the lash at the AoL.

I just laughed my arse off when you told me Sunderland had won an award for fan engagement. It’s like giving Hitler the Nobel Peace Prize.