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FAN LETTERS: Clamour intensifies for Sunderland AFC to introduce a loyalty system for exiles

Following yesterday’s edition of Fan Letters we’ve received a boat load of emails from exiled supporters who would love to see their loyalty rewarded by the club. Got something to say? Email us: - we’ll include your message in the next edition.

Bury v Sunderland - Carabao Cup First Round
The Red & White army at Bury last season.
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

My son and I are loyal Sunderland fans living in Nottingham. We attend as many away games as work allows us to as I work in retail. I book days off when we are playing within a reasonable distance, i.e. Birmingham, Yorkshire etc.

Despite contacting the ticket office each time, we never manage to get away tickets. The only game where we sat with Sunderland fans was at Nottingham Forest when we asked a Forest player (friend of ours) to organise tickets. At every other game we have sat with home fans, which has spoiled the enjoyment somewhat.

It’s going to be even worse next season when we visit smaller grounds.

We would welcome a loyalty scheme or anything that means we can get tickets.

Lin Easom

Ed’s Note [JN]: As I suggested in yesterday’s fan letters, maybe a non-season ticket loyalty scheme would be an excellent idea to help lads fans who aren’t local or simply cannot get a season ticket for whatever reason.

Though to be brutally honest, as a season ticket holder who attends 90% of away games, I don’t know how I feel if someone who didn’t go to as many games got one ahead of myself. But something does need to be done in order to help exiles. It really is a difficult, catch 22 situation.

Many other clubs are introducing “membership schemes”, but I do hope we do not introduce this. Fans can quite literally pay for points, completely negating the rewards for years of passion garnered. It is undoubtedly very difficult, but a form of non-season card reward points is a good compromise.

AFP/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I read the last edition of Fan Letters about loyalty cards for supporters who have to travel significant distances. I live on the South Coast, so can not travel to games.

As games are always recorded, is there anyway I could watch the games as they did a few seasons ago when they showed preseason friendlies?

There are a lot of distant supporters and I would be happy to pay to be able to watch.

William Dodds

Ed’s Note [JN]: Barring EFL iFollow, I’m not so sure. Let’s just say it isn’t exactly a completely legal way to watch from within the UK, but you can watch most games streamed live for free or a minimal price through the online streaming platforms of other clubs.

Sunderland did not sign up to iFollow last season, however that may change. The full 90 minutes can be viewed after the match has finished but through a paid service on the site, though not for free. Streams and TV games will be severely limited even farther now we’re down in League One, so it seems iFollow is the only imperfect and somewhat finicky way to follow the lads live.

  • If you don’t know what iFollow is, click here for an explanation.
  • If you have heard of it, but are unsure how to utilise it, we have a handy guide from last season prepared, here.
Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’m totally behind the Malcom Dugdale’s idea of an away supporters loyalty scheme.

I am retired and live in North Wales - a good 3.75 hours drive away - but can manage a few trips to the SoL each year, although I must admit I was not attracted to many last season.

However I can manage many in say the West Midlands, Lancashire and (with help of relatives) East Midlands and Norfolk. However if I wait until I am qualified to purchase tickets from the SAFC ticket office, invariably all tickets have gone.

There’s rightly great recognition of the amazing away support from our season ticket holders but surely some sort of scheme as Malcolm proposes will help distant Mackems see more of our great team than a few seconds on Channel 5!

Yours - a Mackem since the early 60s.

Andrew Bailey

Ed’s Note [JN]: This is definitely one for Stewart Donald and co to work out. As aforementioned, I think we do need to introduce an Exiles Points System. But beyond this, points could be awarded for home cup games, maybe extra points for games of a certain distance, say Plymouth of Gillingham away three points, Shrewsbury two and Barnsley one. And so on.

Clearly there are a lot of different routes and alternatives to be looked at. Charlie Methven already claimed they will be sorting out Black Cat House, and it seems clamour for a renovation to the ticketing needs to be analysed as well.

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