clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How staff redundancies cast a shadow over Sunderland's recent 'Unity is Strength' PR campaign

After yesterday's announcement that Sunderland will be cutting the jobs of internal staff at the Stadium of Light, does it make it hard to swallow when we are spoon-fed positive spin from the club's PR department?

40th Anniversary Memorial of Ibrox Disaster Held In Glasgow PHoto by Danny Lawson - pool/Getty Images

With Sunderland in probably the worst shape that we've been in in recent years, we've seen a strategic media campaign launched by the football club recently - Unity is Strength - one that intends to arm the fans with the idea that togetherness is the key to success.

Since Martin Bain arrived at the club in the summer, there have been clear, public efforts made by our new CEO in a bid to reconnect Sunderland back to its roots. First came the club trip to the Nissan car plant, which was followed a few weeks later by Charlie Hurley day - and both occasions were viewed by the majority of supporters and the media as a roaring success.

I was one of many who championed the trip made by the players and first team staff to New York last weekend, seeing it as a much needed break away from the spotlight for a set of players who have looked mentally spent in recent weeks.

But then, yesterday morning, we here at Roker Report broke the news that club staff had been informed by Bain that there would be enforced redundancies at the club in a bid to restructure and cut costs.

Suddenly I didn't feel so warm about the idea of the players enjoying an all-expenses paid trip to New York whilst, back on Wearside, Bain was preparing to deliver some devastating news to employees that oversee the running of the football club on a day-to-day basis.

After the talk of unity, strength and togetherness, Bain has delivered a hammer blow to club employees who will have gone home wondering what happens next for them. After talking about reconnecting the football club back to local communities, it's hard to take his word when he's about to put regular people that depend upon that income on the breadline - and that stands regardless of whether you feel that he is right or not in doing so.

And whilst the timing of this news is largely due to the fact that the club legally have to give a three-month notice when enforcing redundancies - which obviously coincides with the end of the current campaign, by which point we'll know if we are a Premier League club next season or not - it makes me feel that all the recent talk of unity and togetherness from the football club has been nothing more than a cheap attempt to sell more surplus football shirts and to distract supporters from the real issues that we face as a club - both on and off the pitch.

Whether these redundancies are needed or not, it's incredibly difficult to take any attempts by the club to manufacture good PR seriously when they are cutting costs in areas of the football club that probably need it most. Cutting funding for the Sunderland AFC Ladies set-up and within all other off-pitch departments may well be seen as necessary if we are to become a better-functioning business, but it doesn't make me feel any easier about it.

With it now public knowledge that the club are planning to cut jobs it has become even more important that the players do their talking on the pitch and not in the press.

When the players played with a belief that the supporters could resonate with at the end of last season, the fans didn't need a PR campaign to unite. In fact, supporters came together in order to do everything that they could to ensure that their presence within the Stadium of Light was felt on the night that we defeated Everton and secured our safety - and why? Because we could tell that the players and the manager were genuinely giving us their all on the pitch, and that they needed our support if they were going to be able to achieve safety.

We don't need to see publicity stunts, we need to see a team on the pitch that gives their all and look capable of survival. And, as with every relegation, there are jobs that could be potentially saved if the players can bring themselves to achieve safety and stay in the Premier League again for another season.

Sadly it seems that the true meaning of 'Unity is Strength' has been lost.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Roker Report Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Sunderland news from Roker Report