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New Sunderland Supporters Trust only weeks away from launch

Roker Report’s co-opted rep on the Red & White Army, Rich Speight, gives us an update on the work of the fan group as it joins national campaigns and reforms as a Supporters Trust.

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Following the historic vote by Red & White Army (RAWA) members back in July to convert the 11,000-strong independent democratic fan organisation into a formal Supporters Trust, on Wednesday evening the RAWA Committee and Co-opts group met via video call.

I attended as Roker Report’s coopted rep, and I’m happy to be able to report that good progress has been made in the background by the group’s volunteer committee members.

Everything seems to be progressing smoothly; RAWA have worked closely with the Football Supporters Association (FSA) and submitted the required paperwork to Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). They have also drawn up a constitution mainly based on best practice elsewhere, which should mean that the formation of a legal entity - a Community Interest Company - will go ahead in the next two or three weeks.

Current RAWA members and fans from around the world will then be invited to join the new trust, which will cost £5 per person per year (with the ability for those who want to pay more into the collective coffers), and then an Annual General Meeting will take place as soon as practical, where a new Board of between 5-10 members to run the organisation day-to-day.

A large part of the meeting was dedicated to the issue of the safe return of fans to football grounds and the financial sustainability of football in the EFL. It was agreed that RAWA should join with other fan groups and clubs across the country, including Sunderland AFC, to support the FSA’s #LetFansIn and #SustainTheGame campaigns wholeheartedly.

RAWA will write to all the MPs in the area, including South Tyneside and Country Durham, asking them to support the campaigns to save and protect football.

RAWA are fully behind the FSA call for the UK Government, not JUST the Premier League to give financial support to the EFL, if only to reimburse the lost gate receipts. I raised the concern expressed within Roker Report and across social media that the Premier League may try to extract more than just a monetary price for their financial backing of the lower divisions, particularly the mooted inclusion of B teams in the league pyramid. This is something that fan groups like RAWA, the FSA and the EFL clubs themselves are acutely aware of, I was assured, and hopefully the EFL’s long-established working relationship with the top flight will ensure that no unfair conditions are placed on a future financial support package.

Portugal v Spain - International Friendly
Portuguese fans wearing masks await the kick off during the international friendly match between Portugal and Spain at Estadio Jose Alvalade on October 07, 2020 in Lisbon
Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

The RAWA committee repeated it’s long-standing call for the club to re-engage in the Structured Dialogue meetings that have not taken place since November 2019, and the hope is that this can be achieved in the next couple of months - obviously depending on who is in charge at that point.

The meeting agenda also included an update on the ownership of the club and status of any takeover - where there was very little news to report - and an item about the SAFC Ladies team, where it was agreed that the Lasses should be a standing agenda item at future meetings between RAWA and the club.

Overall, it was a productive meeting - and it bodes well for the future of the new Trust that the fan groups and fan media are able to sit down and discuss issues productively, working together in the common interests of Sunderland supporters everywhere.

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