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Red & White Army: Protest, ownership & the future of Sunderland AFC - Supporters, we need you

Do you think Sunderland fans should protest regarding the current state of the football club? Would you like to have a question put to Martin Bain? This coming Tuesday night is your chance to have your say.

Red & White Army

On Tuesday 20 March at 7pm, Sunderland supporters’ group Red and White Army is holding an open meeting at The Peacock (formerly The Londonderry when it was full of radgies).

All Sunderland fans are invited to attend, as we desperately need your input to inform how our group moves forward.

In early April, we will be meeting Sunderland AFC for probably the last time this season, and almost certainly the last time before our status in the league is confirmed.

If we don’t seize this opportunity to at least attempt to enact change at the club, we may have to live with ourselves knowing that we didn’t do everything humanly possible to pull Sunderland AFC out of this relentless downwards trajectory, and prevent the club’s perpetual plummet towards the swirling abyss.

Let’s be honest, they aren’t going to be able to do it themselves, are they?

The inaugural meeting of the RAWA
Red & White Army

On the verge of two successive relegations, the frightening financial situation at Sunderland could soon be set to become graver still, making the football club somehow even less sustainable. While it defies logic that Ellis Short would be happy to sit idly by and let his business die in front of him, operating at a greater loss by the season, he has decided that Sunderland AFC warrants no further investment. Without spending money to compensate for the gaping holes in our operation, we can’t take measures to stunt our descent and find respite to level out. The more we fail, the harder it becomes to survive.

It is clear that without the following things happening, the club will seriously struggle to maintain its current position, never mind improve:

  1. The club must be sold to an owner who takes an interest in its fortunes.
  2. The culture of failure must be addressed and eradicated.
  3. The disconnect between the club and supporters must be repaired.
Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

As spectators, sometimes it can be difficult to feel like we have an influence on what’s happening in front of us. We have seen Sunderland sides collapse in front of a packed-out Stadium of Light, and we’ve seen them fail to even get started in front of half capacity.

It’s about more than losing games, though. Sunderland fans have experienced plenty of loss over the last decade, but it has never deterred them from coming back until now.

While losing games every week and the threat of successive relegations are certainly both contributory factors to why the attendance has decreased at such a rate, the overarching factor is much deeper than that.

Sunderland fans no longer feel that the club is fighting for them on the pitch, at board level, or in the community, and so many of our fans have decided they are no longer willing to fight for the club. After what has gone on over the last couple of seasons — the horror of what has been allowed to happen at our football club — I don’t think anyone could criticise these fans for deciding that enough is enough.

I can also completely understand why people are sceptical of groups trying to enact change, such as the Red and White Army. These types of things — committees, identity groups, action groups etc — tend to attract the type of people I don’t have time for: do-gooders, schmoozers, wet wipes and the self-righteous.

The distinction here is that these people are all die-hard Sunderland fans, raised in and around the local area. They have genuine, tangible experience covering the football club and interacting with supporters, and they’re giving their time up for this group because the devastating plight of the club is ruining their lives so much that they feel they have no other choice but to step up and contribute.

EMPICS via Getty Images

As someone who has covered SAFC since 2011 for A Love Supreme, seeing everything from self-proposed fascists, to cup finals, to child sex offenders, to six in a row (I wrote a book about that), to relegations, I’m more than qualified to represent Sunderland supporters, if they’re happy for me to do that. I can vouch personally that everybody in the Red and White Army is at least as dedicated as I am, and that the only thing driving us forward is the small chance we may be able to stop this rot — nothing else would make me want to dedicate even more of my time to worrying about Sunderland AFC, the bain of my existence. Whatever perception you may have otherwise is false.

At the same time, I don’t know what ourselves or any supporter group can do to make immediate change. I am out of ideas.

We have considered demonstration and protest in many different ways on many different occasions - we float new and improved protest ideas every other day - but have yet to reach a consensus that would be sufficiently effective, well-attended, and purposeful. Clearly, as a group of supporters, we need to do something, it’s just difficult to determine what that is.

On Tuesday, it could be our final chance to put our heads together and come up with something that may change our fortunes. Granted, we can do little to inject a much-needed element of quality into the playing side, but we are still accountable for our own behaviour. There’s no doubt that a greater presence of supporters in the Stadium will increase our chances of getting the results required to survive, and we must give ourselves every chance to survive. There must be something we can do.

Come along to the meeting and share your ideas.

Action Plus via Getty Images

No ideas will be dismissed, all will be welcomed. I have personally attended meetings with the club as part of the supporter engagement process, sat around a table with Martin Bain and his team, where ideas have been presented and discussed. For all there are clear differences in our thinking, we each want the same thing, and I feel that the club would be willing to try anything to get supporters back on side.

Do you feel a protest is necessary? Tell us why and how you would do it.

Can we, as fans, find a way to encourage the sale of the club?

What can we do to bring attention to what Ellis Short is doing to Sunderland, because nobody else in football seems to give a f*ck — they’re too busy laughing at our empty seats.

The Peacock (formerly the Londonderry)

If you feel that the Red and White Army takes too soft of an approach and we need a stronger back bone, feel free to come along and shout over the top of us; whip us into shape. If you don’t feel we do enough, tell us what more we can do. Whatever it takes. There are no egos here, all we want is your input and support. Without coming together and showing a collective front we will be unable to prevent the drop. The immediacy of the situation means that this must happen now, as if the football club drops into League One then it will become even more difficult to sell and to break this revolting cycle; none of us could predict what may happen next.

They may not deserve our hard work and dedication, but we owe it to ourselves as a fan base to remember that we were here long before the club in its current form was even realised. We are the one constant throughout the history of the football club, the incredible, insane, legendary Sunderland support, and now it is time for us to come together to find a way to protect that legacy. If we don’t it will be the next generation of Sunderland fans who suffer.

Come along on Tuesday night. If you won’t do it for the club, do it for the supporters.