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Fan Letters: Roker Report = Club propaganda machine?

Does Roker Report exist solely to circulate club propaganda at the order of Sunderland AFC’s top brass? It’s an accusation often levelled at us, and RR editor Damian Brown has his say in reply to a Letter received from Dave Taggart...

Moscow Times

Dear Roker Report,

Do you think the reporting of the current owners and all that they have “achieved” could be slightly biased given the access you have been given by Stuart Donald?

Has it not crossed you’re mind that you have been used as a propaganda tool, which has lead to one-sided reporting of our so-called saviours?

While brushing under the carpet what has been a obvious money making scheme from the beginning, shrouded in false passion for a club they have know for 5 minutes.

Do you believe that said saviours are the only people who could have got new seats on the cheap, not too mention free labour.

Everyone knows the club was in a bad state Donald and co have reminded us at every opportunity. To my mind Sunderland should have been promoted given our resources over clubs like Luton, therefore whatever you think about the clubs so called transformation by the Messiah Donald, he failed! However, stands to make a pretty penny doing so, which ironically sums up modern day football.

Dave Taggart

Ed’s Note [Damian]: Well Dave, where do I begin?

The short answer to your question is “No, I don’t” but let me expand on that a little.

It’s clear that the intention from the off was to bring the fans back on to the same side as the club - no one can deny it. It’s also common knowledge that Charlie Methven is something of a PR guru, having made a name for himself in that elaborate and lucrative game. These are facts.

But let me answer your question with another question: what were you expecting? With a sundered fan base and a broken bridge between fans and club, bottoming out in dire financial straits, closing down sections of a neglected and increasingly empty stadium - what were you expecting to happen when a new owner came in? What did you desire to happen?

When Ellis Short finally conceded to sell the club - having spent a good two years claiming any other owner would come in and decimate it for profit - there were only two possible outcomes: either another absentee billionaire would come in and do a quick shuffle of the deck, spend a few quid (or perhaps strip assets?) to try to make the club financially viable, and hope that by doing so the fans would return in their droves to support the new regime regardless of whether they like them or not.

Option two: someone with less money but more savvy would recognise the obvious cracks in the facade and work to engage with the fans, not only to make profit (an expected and reasonable objective) but because without that overarching sense of community and unity - and in the total and utter absence of any form of success - there’s very little to write home about when it comes to Sunderland AFC.

Now, is engagement with fanzines designed to curry favour with fans? Yes. Of course it is. As much as the Roker Rapport is beloved to me I’m not of the opinion that random Insurance moguls tune in twice a week to hear the dulcet tones of our marvellous podcast staff, and that Stewart Donald was just such a fan of the (albeit marvellous) audio production that he had to come on and shoot the breeze. No - any and all efforts to engage with the fan outlets serves a very specific purpose. Just as any press conference (and I mean any, anywhere, for anyone and anything) is controlled to minimise negative publicity and maximise good publicity, all efforts made by the owners to engage the fan base serve a very specific and ultimately necessary purpose. I’m sorry if I’m the first one to inform you of this reality.

As to the accusation that Roker Report engages in positive spin for the club and the owners, flying in the face of everything it’s contributors believe in: expletive-laden but edited rant to follow.

If I were somehow able to excuse the painfully simple suggestion that Stewart Donald is to blame for the teams performance against Charlton - which I’m not able to do - I’d go on to point out that in spite of him spiking the drinks at half-time like some kind of footballing Dick Dastardly and calling the players houses late at night before a big match just to breathe down the phone before hanging up, he has actually done positive things for this club of ours.

What bothers me most about this lazy, uninformed opinion is that it only takes a cursory glance through the recent articles released by Roker Report or the Rapport podcasts hosting the owners as guests to clarify that as an outlet we have absolutely no qualms about questioning the methodology, reasoning and effectiveness of any single individual at the club, including but in no way limited to Stewart Donald, Charlie Methven, Juan Sartori, George Honeyman, Lee Cattermole, the groundsman’s dog, Samson, Delilah or the tea lady. If there is a glaring issue at Sunderland AFC Roker Report will cover it, often from several angles.

Why, I hear you ask? Because Roker Report is comprised of dozens of individuals that each hold their own opinion and with it the capacity to ask any question they please in publication. If there is a distinct lack of negativity towards Stewart Donald it isn’t because we need fear reprisal from publishing it - it’s because few of us feel that negativity. As much as we value the previously unheard-of level of access fanzines can now enjoy with communicative owners, it’s always been clear that Roker Report doesn’t exist merely to garner support for them. They haven’t ever asked us to circulate disinformation, nor withhold anything beyond the norms of journalistic integrity and law. Nothing is swept under the carpet, nothing is redacted by Stewart Donald’s ‘circle of accountability’ from the nerve centre of his elaborate lair under the Stadium of Light, and the rumours of Connor Bromley being kidnapped by Charlie Methven’s jackbooted gestapo in a gratuitously obvious red and white transit van, and waterboarded until he woke up endlessly screaming “CHARLIE METHVEN FOR PM”, are libellous and barely half the truth.

So no, Dave. I think you need to chill out to a good few hours of Zeitgeist and aim your conspiracy brush at people that deserve to be tarred with it, rather than the people who cover this club for your reading pleasure at no charge and off their own backs, simply because they love an institution that they would never lie about and never willingly obfuscate the future of by taking part in some ludicrous display of back-scratching that frankly doesn’t belong anywhere outside the Tory party.

I’m not saying it was aliens man.. but it was aliens.

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