Last week Sunderland announced that supporters will have the opportunity to vote for a new name for the Stadium of Light’s south stand, and a shortlist of four names has been drawn up by the lads behind the independent supporter’s group, the Red and White Army (RAWA) - the Roker End, the Wearside End, the Colliery End and the Raich Carter End.
Renaming the south stand is one of many initiatives RAWA and Sunderland AFC are working together on, and I believe us being given the opportunity to take part in this is something that runs far deeper, and for many fans helps to form an identity around their love for Sunderland.
The suggested names all share common themes which link back to not only Sunderland football club’s history, but the history of the city itself, thus showing that retaining part of our heritage is very important as the club look forward to the future.
Just take other football grounds and their stands, for example - Liverpool have the Kop, and Manchester United have the Stretford End - iconic areas of their own respective ground that form an integral part of what their own fans and fans of other clubs perceive to be their identity.
Sunderland’s south stand is (albeit unofficially) the ‘home end’ of the Stadium of Light, where the majority of the good atmosphere generated by supporters emenates from on a matchday, and as such I believe that it deserves some form of recognition.
Giving fans the opportunity to really put their stamp on what it’s called and making it ‘theirs’ might not seem like a great deal to some, but the truth is that it’s one of many small things that can help form an identity that relates back to those that frequent it on a matchday. In years to come, fans will look back and remember that they had a say in what it was called.
It’s important to bear in mind that the renaming process is part of a bigger initiative within the club to get more fans involved with the changes happening at Sunderland.
Renaming the south stand didn’t necessarily need to be done in the grand scheme of things, but it just shows how the new owners are keen to listen to fan opinions and encourage fans to voice these opinions.
In fact, renaming the south stand came about after surveys from RAWA emphasised how fans were keen for a sense of identity - highlighting just how fan involvement is a core belief for the new leadership team to help Sunderland progress in the future.
Whilst, at the end of the day, there are still going to be some fans who won’t really care about what the south stand is called - or any other stand for that matter - it’s important that we all recognise that this is just one of many good things that the current owners can facilitate at a presumably minimal personal cost whilst giving the fans some responsibility as they move forward.
The small things make all the difference in my opinion, and if renaming the south stand incites a sense of identity or pride within fans, that’s yet another step forward out of the doldrums as this club looks to rebuild itself and become something that other clubs look at with envy.