Following the 2-0 defeat at home to Preston on Saturday, BBC Sport’s match report ran with a tag line which infuriated fans of not just Sunderland but supporters of clubs across the country.
‘Their fans left in their droves long before the final whistle’ headed up a tweet on our latest defeat in what was a baffling and ill-informed move from the BBC.
This sends out a message to many readers who are perhaps unaware of the ongoing plight on Wearside that the fans are somewhat fickle in their approach to home matches. It suggests that Sunderland supporters don’t stick by their club and that as soon as things don’t go our way we flood out of the ground.
The people behind this piece really should have done some more thorough research.
Whilst there’s no doubting that the club will have expected a significant drop in attendances following relegation from the Premier League, they perhaps wouldn’t have banked on the club performing as badly as they have and, as a result, the stadium has only been half full for the majority of the season.
Match day prices haven’t helped this whatsoever, with some match tickets recently costing £25, which is a lot to ask people to pay when the team have won just two of their last 19 games on home soil in this campaign.
I could sit here and list all of the stats that show how poor we’ve been over the last ten years but that may only be of some use if top brass at BBC Sport actually gave them a read - though, as this is extremely unlikely I don’t need to go too far into the gory details.
The match report even came with its own juxtaposition, stating that it was ten games without a win before describing our support as ‘dwindling’. What seems to go over the heads of many members of the wider media is that any side on a run as bad as Sunderland currently are would see their attendances plummet; it just seems fun and easy to poke fun at us.
Unfortunately for Sunderland, this is nothing more than a case of a huge media platform focusing attention on the wrong issues affecting a badly wounded football club. Hundreds or even thousands of supporters leaving early when their side is on a woeful run of results isn’t news - it’s an unavoidable event.
What should be addressed is how individuals are able to tear the heart and soul out of an immensely proud football club and take it plummeting to new lows every single match day. The fact that the BBC had the audacity to criticise our fans for leaving early shows that they are out of touch with a large portion of football supporters.
We don’t all follow a top six side, after all.
Negative publicity will not bring fans back through turnstiles. If our slide down the football league continues, which is more than possible, then the BBC is sure to not be the only media outlet to cover it. However the more they share their articles and reports in this way, the more it will hinder struggling football teams trying to restore pride.