When 8000 Sunderland supporters descend upon Blackpool on this coming New Year’s Day, it will act as a marker for what has been an unbelievable rebirth of our football club under new, active owners in Stewart Donald, Juan Sartori and Charlie Methven.
Fans are happier now than they have been in years, and we’re all united and on the same page. We are at one with our owners, and as such the club is headed in an incredibly positive direction - on and off the field.
But you don’t have to go back too far to remember what it was like when we didn’t have interactive, personable ownership at the club - the culmination of the Ellis Short and Martin Bain era was relived recently in the ‘Sunderland Til I Die’ Netflix series, reminding Sunderland supporters of just how bad we actually had it, in all the gory detail.
If anyone knows what it’s like to suffer under poor stewardship, it’s Sunderland fans. It wasn’t long ago that mackems felt stranded. Cast adrift in a sea of bad money and worse management, Sunderland AFC teetered on the brink of an oblivion of sorts; an outcome barely arrested before we toppled over the edge, with the introduction of fresh money and fresh ideas.
Arguably we had it better than Blackpool. For all our erstwhile owner’s flaws, Sunderland fans had the privilege of supporting the club for ten long years of Premier League battle and heartache, before we finally succumbed to the accumulative damage brought on by an endless stream of opportunists and charlatans, and dropped not one tier but two. But in spite of our tremendous fall from grace, one thing survived through it all: hope.
We have that now as we forge ahead through League One and, God willing, back to where we belong. But spare a thought for Blackpool as we look to continue our quest through the divisions. For them, the highs of club football over recent years have paled in comparison even to our meagre lot.
When we head across to the west coast to take on the Tangerines on the 1st of January we’ll find ourselves around a club that have been battered and bruised by malaise and neglect off the pitch - the fans of Blackpool Football Club are locked in a stalemate with owner Owen Oyston, and his son Karl, who is the current chairman. The details of the struggle are numerous and by no means superficial.
While there’s a lot to be said for rivalry in football, perhaps of equal importance is the opportunity for compassion and community it provides. Through disasters and tragedies football fans of all clubs have often come together to show their solidarity as lovers of the game and most importantly as people.
Football is synonymous with community, and the football community is vast indeed.
When the long-suffering fans of an institution cry for help, all fans should answer. And so it should be with this most recent call to arms. The Blackpool Supporters Trust have asked the 8000 Sunderland fans that will be there on the day to help them take a stance against the men in charge of their club.
How you can help...
BST are urging Sunderland fans to support their cause by doing the following:
- Not purchasing any match programmes or lottery tickets when at the ground;
- Not purchasing any food or drinks from the kiosks on the concourse inside the ground;
- Giving your custom instead to the pubs, chippies etc in the streets around the ground;
- Joining Blackpool supporters in the spirit of fans united at our usual pre-match vigil/protest outside the West Stand.
What’s been said?
Christine Seddon, chair of Blackpool Supporters Trust (BST) explained how thousands of long standing supporters have made the difficult decision to stay away:
Convicted rapist Owen Oyston was found by the High Court last year to have illegitimately asset stripped the club of multiple millions while the football club plummeted down the leagues.
He also threatened some supporters with legal action for speaking out against this behaviour, forcing them to pay thousands of pounds to him so that he would drop the action.
Now into their 4th season of boycotting, Blackpool fans have not undertaken this action lightly. The visit to Bloomfield Road by Sunderland fans on New Year’s Day will ensure the largest crowd of the season for the Oystons and will significantly outnumber Blackpool fans inside the ground.
The BST’s ‘Not A Penny More’ stance means they have chosen to not renew season tickets, not to purchase match day tickets for home games, not to buy any club merchandise.
BST is also organising an ethical boycott of those businesses that sponsor the club as well as other local businesses run by the club’s owners.
Quite simply, many supporters will not give the club another penny of their money and have withdrawn their custom until such time as we get a change of ownership.