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Should Sunderland consider moving the away fans back to the lower bowl of the SoL?

One thing that has been difficult to ignore since the season started is the swathes of empty seats littered around the Stadium of Light, and it has brought about the reemergence of an age-old debate - should away fans be accommodated in the lower bowl of the Stadium of Light, as opposed to being housed in the North Stand upper?

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Having pondered this question this morning I threw it out on our Twitter page to see what our readers thought, and the responses were mixed.

Almost 700 people voted in the one hour that the poll was live, and the result was surprisingly tight.

The majority of voters would prefer if the away fans were accommodated back in the lower bowl, but interestingly 48% would prefer if they stayed where they were.

And with good reason. Whenever a move is planned, season card holders must be relocated and with such a large chunk of the ground earmarked specifically as an away end, there will be people left disgruntled by any potential change.

Carole Foster makes a fantastic point - it would help both the atmosphere and the amount of filled seats immeasurably if we closed the upper tier and moved everyone downstairs - but it’s too late for that now. Maybe next year? Provided we don’t get promoted, of course.

Perhaps the most sensible, logical suggestion made came from this reader. Whilst traditionally you’d expect any re-location of fans would happen in the South Stand, putting them in the North side of the ground could work too.

The decision was taken in the summer of 2012 to move away supporters from pitch-side in the South stand to the upper reaches of the North end of the stadium, and whilst initially it was deemed a good idea there has been an underlying feeling ever since that placing away supporters there was a bad move on the club’s part.

The atmosphere within the Stadium has undeniably suffered as a result. The fans used to bounce off each other when housed closer together and it all contributed to a more vocal, hostile environment which made the Stadium a more vibrant place to watch a game of football.

Celtic supporters were afforded seats in the lower part of the ground for our game in pre-season and whilst their placement in the stadium - in the South stand - was, in hindsight, a bad move, the atmosphere they created perhaps gave us a glimpse as to what it might be like if we somehow closed off the top tier of the Stadium of Light in order to fill up the seats in the lower bowl.

There are both positives and negatives, though. It’s a great idea when clubs like Leeds are bringing 3000 fans with them, but not to great when a smaller club comes and struggles to fill half of the stand.

Had we stayed in the Premier League this season we would have been obliged to afford a section of the lower bowl to away support as per a new Premier League ruling, but relegation brought with it, amongst a whole host of other things, the need to not adhere to that particular regulation.

Obviously this isn’t something that can happen over night, but with attendances continuing to dwindle and the prospect of another year at least in the Championship looming, it’s certainly something to consider going forward.

What would you like the club to do - would it be beneficial to move the away fans from where they are currently located, or do you think they should just be kept where they are? Is there a wider issue when it comes to atmosphere in the Stadium?

Leave your comments below - we’d love to hear from you.