Sometimes, when things aren’t going well, you tend to see the world in a purely negative light. Sunderland fans - myself included - are often guilty of perhaps purely focusing on the critical aspects of the club’s current predicament.
That’s not meant as a slight against anyone because, if truth be told, we’ve been very poor for a number of years. And in that time, fans have continued to show up in impressive force trying to do their utmost to support a team that’s failed to find any form of tangible success. If anything, our fans deserve an enormous amount of respect and credit as we’ve watched our club slide slowly closer to oblivion, helpless to intercede and find positive change.
Attempts have been made to help turn things around - fans have organized themselves, setting up organizations such as Red And White Army, offering insight and assistance to the club on how things can change for the better. This is a positive step in a position of plight, yet could the club be doing more to redevelop this frayed relationship?
The Red & White Army will be meeting SAFC in early April, and Sunderland Supporters have an opportunity to have their voices heard when it comes to key issues regarding the football club. https://t.co/Gkq6WXPXBk— ALS: SAFC FANZINE (@ALS_Fanzine) March 14, 2018
And that’s what the aim of this article is. I’m not to point fingers and revel in highlighting ineptitude, but rather to attempt to raise an issue and offer a potential solution that the club could perhaps have explored.
The issue right now is clear for all to see as we sit perilously close to a mathematical confirmation of relegation. Nobody takes any pleasure from that whatsoever, and any negativity emanating from the fanbase pays testament to just how passionate and fanatical we are as supporters.
That being said, I do think the club are missing an opportunity to not only give Chris Coleman and his men a shot at avoiding relegation, but also to rebuild links with the fans who feel more and more despondent with the manner in which their club is being governed.
The example I’m highlighting is the recent announcement that the club are to charge £25 for adults looking to attend the coming games at home to Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich City and Burton Albion.
So.... @SunderlandAFC, entering the most important period of our history, have three absolutely massive games coming up at the Stadium of Light.— Roker Report (@RokerReport) March 14, 2018
Crowds are dropping - could they not have done more to get people through the gates?
£25 a ticket won't inspire the stay-aways much. pic.twitter.com/QFVeaw6S5K
Don’t get me wrong, £25 isn’t a princely sum of money, and the club’s recent pricing in terms of season tickets has certainly been fair. However, to me and many others this latest ticketing announcement looks like a missed opportunity.
I’m not talking about a missed opportunity in terms of PR or media content, but rather in terms of attracting fans back to the Stadium of Light in the hope of creating an impassioned energy that could potentially help raise the side to victory.
The club recently argued that part of the reason they had chosen to close the Premier Concourse next season is in order to help improve atmosphere within the stadium. Therefore, the argument could be made that perhaps looking to attract fans back in the short-term should be a priority if we are to mount any realistic chance of another great escape.
Bringing kids along for £1 is a great idea; however, why not include all home games for the remainder of the season? Why not reduce prices in general in order to try and bring back supporters? There really are a multitude of options available to the club in order to try and encourage fans back into the stadium not in terms of financial reward, but in order to try and get fans back into the stadium where they can make an enormous difference.
Look back to the win against Everton under Big Sam, or the victory against Chelsea - the stadium was absolutely rocking and the fans were the proverbial twelfth man on those nights. Obviously our position has worsened since then, but what’s stopping us from replicating that level of energy and passion from an enlarged crowd?
The simple answer to the fans’ reluctance to turn out in great numbers is the lack of carrot at the end of the stick. Winning games is the obvious answer to improving numbers, but when you’re sitting bottom of the Championship looking closer and closer to plummeting into League One, you need to think outside of the box in order to bring back the people capable of making a difference: us, the fans. Ticketing incentives could prove vital if we are to mount any form of attempt at survival.