I recently watched a brilliant documentary about the rise and fall of the Seattle Supersonics - one of the NBA’s most successful sides - and it lead me to wonder what could happen to Sunderland down the line if we do not sort out our ownership issues soon.
The Sonics were founded in 1967 and had a glittering history that includes one NBA Championship, three conference titles and six divisional titles. The team had a fanatic support, much like Sunderland, that was eventually eroded due to horrendous ownership.
The team were owned by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who eventually sold the club to an Oklahoma businessman named Clay Bennett.
Bennett slowly destroyed their team by trading their best players, slashing the wage budget and ruining the fan game-day experience.
While I understand that Sunderland and an NBA franchise are barely comparable, the thing that led me to draw comparisons between the Sonics story and Sunderland is how both clubs - despite being incredibly important to the city they hail from - have been left to ruin by an owner that has given up caring.
The Sonics had their fate sealed when they relocated to Oklahoma in 2008, leaving a basketball crazy city without a team. The fate for Sunderland down the road? Administration? Further capitulation beyond the third tier - League Two, perhaps?
Hopefully Sunderland can get sorted soon, because without an owner who is invested in the well-being of the club we could become a ghost of our former self. Attendances have practically halved in the space of around 18 months, and unless something happens soon you can expect that more and more fans will continue to turn their backs on the club they’ve grown up loving.
Fortunately the key difference for Sunderland and the Sonics is that we will always have our team. Even if the worst somehow happened and Sunderland went into administration or had to start from scratch, the team would still, in some form, exist and the fans would still have their club.
But, we must soldier on. Joining us this week on the Roker Rapport Podcast are two fantastic guests - Keith Downie of Skysports, and George Caulkin, writer for the Times. George is a terrific journalist whose work I always look out for - unfortunately because of our dire situation he does not get to see as much of Sunderland as he we would like. Keith is Skysport’s North East correspondent and is often the only person I trust during transfer windows!
I’m incredibly excited to have both men on the show and cannot wait to pick their brains regarding their views of how things are going for Sunderland at the moment.
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