After the game last night, an all too recognisable loss at home to Nottingham Forest, I approached a member of club staff after the game to discuss why the “Short Out” banner that was in the South Stand had to be taken down, despite meeting many of the Stadium and Club’s prerequisite requirements of all banners and flags. The Football Supporters Federation provide a biannual update from each Premier and Football League club’s Supporter Liaison Officer. Sunderland’s very own Chris Waters provided these four points:
Yes, we allow banners in the home and away ends.
A fire safety certificate is required for all banners over 7ft x 3ft. All fire rating documents should be supplied before banners can enter the stadium. They should be classified as Class O spread of flame. No flags on poles are allowed. Banners should not be fixed to hand rails with gaffer tape.
Contact the club directly on email@example.com with details on the banner content, size of the banner, their seat details for the game and how many supporters are bringing the banner into the stadium. Home End – approach a steward who will show the group a suitable area to display the banner. Banners cannot cover sponsor boards. Away End – approach a steward who will show the best place the banners can be placed (we usually have the first 5 rows in the away end empty so the flags are placed here).
We do not allow any banner considered offensive to be put on display. If a supporter is unsure whether the content is offensive they can contact the clubs Supporter Liaison Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org. Chris will liaise with the relevant departments at the club to check if the banner is acceptable.
Granted, the supporters in question likely did not approach a steward, but the banner did not contain any offensive nor inappropriate content, and likewise looked smaller than the 7ft x 3ft size specifications. The member of club staff in question both admirably and usefully offered an honest rebuttal; that although he personally agreed with the sentiment, “those upstairs” said under no circumstances could the banner be allowed to be on a show and must be “taken down as soon as possible”. Naturally, those in the upper echelons of the club would not like to see such a banner, but it is still a club censoring the opinions of their supporters (customers). The 'bed-sheet' itself is likely to have been missed by many onlookers, and will not change anything – but he’s still a fan looking to promulgate his opinion on the American billionaire.
In the aftermath of last night’s embarrassment, much of the fan’s ire turned towards the under-performing players and manager Simon Grayson. Granted, neither has performed admirably thus far and deservedly reserve a fair share of the blame, yet to root out the rotten core at Sunderland, our attentions must be turned to the very top.
Gus Poyet, way back in August 2014 alluded to a “rotten core” at Sunderland - he was the first from inside the club to confirm what we fans had known for a long time. His full comments are as follows:
I think there's something wrong in the football club and it's not an excuse. I need to find it. If I don't find it, we've got a problem. I think I know what's wrong – but then I don't. It's too many times, too many things. What happened with Steve Bruce? What happened with Martin O'Neill? What happened with Di Canio? What happens with me now? Who will be next? A, B, C – call him anything and the club will be in the same situation. I don't like it. I need to find the solution. It's sad because, at the end of it, the one who loses his job and looks bad is the manager.
Poyet, although worryingly ascertained this midway through the end of the season, has hit the nail bang on the head. Maybe Grayson is out of his depth leading a team of Premier League rejects, inexperienced youngsters and players of League One quality, but the trend of the buck being the manager must stop now.
It is Ellis Short, Martin Bain and a multitude of others at the annals of the football club have mismanaged Sunderland for nye on a decade now, turning a once proud club into a laughing stock and irrevocable mess, one which is hated by the rest of the country for years of underachieving, overspending, lucky escapes, constant sackings and defending the indefensible.
Year after year we get spewed platitudes that we must “bring back an identity” or “unify the fanbase and the club”, yet, in the same breath these glorified accountants, lawyers and businessmen constantly turn against the fans.
We have endured club-killer Bain’s tenure as CEO for just over a year now, and during that time he has (inhales deeply); overseen disastrous and costly relegation, announced countless redundancies just as an under-performing squad are swanning around New York, the stripping down of a hugely successful ladies team to part-time and then shipping them out to train in Newcastle and play in South Shields, signed one jaded, sexist and obviously not up to the job manager, received a six-figure bonus for overseeing and aiding in the downfall of one of the world’s most historic clubs, scrapped the renovation of the Stadium of Light’s horrendous pinks seats, sold 34 first-team players, spent 5% of money received on these outgoings and has the whole while received a generous wage while acting as an administrator-lite spin doctor who is an unequivocally depraved killer of football clubs with a complete odious lack of humanity. Why can’t the next batch of redundancies include himself and others high up at the club?
Very, very few of our playing and none of our coaching staff were here during the beginning of this mess, and the buck cannot stop with them. The buck must begin and stop with Short and Bain. We are a shell of a once proud club thanks to the formers’ Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Maybe the bed sheet unveiling last night was a cringeworthy event, maybe not. But real push for change and the real questions can and must be asked by the supporters first. Baying quietly to how Bain picks the carcass of this club is not loyalty, questioning his and Short’s role and their ownership is. They are constantly stripping away assets in order to keep the business going and reduce the debt. Yes, this is a necessity in order to attract potential buyers, but by that time we may have nothing left to support anymore.
In an “Update for Fans” back in June, the club announced:
We have concluded these talks and have determined that this proposed sale would not be in the best interests of Sunderland AFC. Ellis Short will continue his commitment to the club, both financially and personally, moving forward.
In reality, the statement should have read this;
We have concluded these talks and have determined that this proposed sale would not be in the best interests of
Sunderland AFC[Ellis Short].
Ellis Short will
continue[end] his commitment to the club, both financially and personally, moving forward.
Now, I’ll address the Missouri-born, Texas-made “businessman” directly: Just where is this financial commitment? £1.25m is not a financial commitment, Ellis. It is footballing suicide. Maybe Simon Grayson has worked with smaller budgets but just look at the state of the club that David Moyes left the day after relegation. Promotion back into the Premier League at first attempt was an imperative, due to the double whammy of both progressively smaller permitted losses (due to the Championship’s Fifa Fair Play rules) and dwindling income through the loss of Premier League TV rights and dwindling parachute payments.
You have mismanaged and transformed a once proud club into an object of widespread ridicule and hatred, on brink of extinction, and that rotten core that Gus Poyet could not quite just adduce is YOUR tenure, and the sooner you return to America, the better. Oh, and please take that monstrously decadent accountant and a gross stench-emitting hysterical mass of warbling inanity (Martin Bain) with you.