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Fan Letters: “Should we be happy with the least worst alternative to Donald?”

In today’s Fan Letters, our readers respectfully discuss the ownership situation, and offer balanced views about Stewart Donald and the club. What do you think?

Dear Roker Report,

Its looking like that we have turned the corner on the pitch footy wise , but come on Donald get some people to clean up the rubbish floating around the ground . It looked like a Sunday morning football pitch yesterday, it was embarrassing .I saw two men at half time picking up the rubbish but one bloke was kicking it off the pitch only for the wind to blow it back on , either get some signs put up telling people to put the rubbish into bins or get some part timers going around to clear it up and replacing full bins.

Anthony Lynn 59 years redn white

Ed’s Note [Tom]: The rubbish inside the stadium does my head in, Anthony. As much as fans really need to do their part, I would also like to see the club making sure that the pitch and stadium set high standards.

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

Dear Roker Report,

During the crisis before Christmas I was one of the few supporters who advocated time rather than immediate change. I wrote as such but you didn’t publish my letter. It felt like being the proverbial candle in the wind during that media storm.

I wasn’t completely convinced about Parkinson then but could see he was attempting to revive Ross’s idea of 3 at the back but was willing to persevere with it when Ross, appalled by results, wasn’t. That perseverance has paid off, but now the pendulum of support has swung the other way and he’s walking on water. This isn’t true either - he can’t. We as Sunderland supporters are no more fickle and short term than most but anyone older than 15 can see people need time to affect change.

The same is true of Stewart Donald. Last season till the end he was a superstar owner in a football club in serious trouble (see Bury or Bolton). Before Christmas he was generally loathed and told to sell up. Neither was accurate. As owners of football clubs go (compare him to that buffoon up the road) and without actually knowing the man, I get the impression from those podcasts that he does actually care. It’s easy to be cynical about him but not easy to hide cynicism for hours over the airwaves in podcasts he didn’t have to do. He is exactly what this club needed and still is. Supporters go on about the financial situation mentioning one or two obvious parts of it as though they actually know what’s happening. They don’t. Shouting about something does not make it true. Knee jerk reactions to a slump are not necessarily in the club’s best interests but now it seems damage has been done to the relationship between Donald and many supporters. How many owners in the leagues above us actually care about the clubs they own and are not just jumping onto the gravy train? How many of these clubs are deep in debt attempting to get to or stay in the Premier League?

I for one trust Stewart Donald to do what he said he was going to do to the best of his ability: get us promoted and bring in investment where and when it’s needed to a club free from serious debt. After all it’s in his interests as well. If he sells, and frankly after the unfair social media storm that enveloped him before Christmas I wouldn’t blame him, who will we get? Multi billionaires from somewhere who’ve barely heard of this town, don’t know one end of a football pitch from the other and are only attracted by the wads of cash on offer at the top end. They may well throw money at us like Ellis Short did until they realise no one is guaranteed success in football and want their money back. Thank you Ellis Short for not taking it back.

With Stewart Donald we have a better chance of actually making it to the Premier League and staying there than without him. I’m reacting to a previous letter on your site from Mark Wild and urging Donald not to sell. The academy is still category 1, scouting and recruitment are inexact sciences but are happening as well as they can in the financial situation we are in and frankly not everyone in this town goes on social media and not everyone is against him. This club is being better run now than at any point in the last 15 years.

Please Stewart don’t sell. Take our fantastic if fickle supporters back to the Premier League. All we want is to win every game. Simple.

Peter Carney

Ed’s Note [Tom]: Thanks for writing in Peter. I am of a similar thought in terms of not advocating knee-jerk decisions with regard to the Stewart Donald situation.

Personally, I am thankful for much that Donald has done for the club, but I am also unsure that he brings with him “a better chance of actually making it to the Premier League.” You pointed out some really fantastic points about our club, but I think your note about our financial situation hindering us at present, will also be a major issue moving forward. Like you mention, I don’t think it’s straightforward to bring in the money required to compete at the upper end of the Championship - any investment will demand some control of the club’s operations, and that is also a worry for the club’s future.

If Stewart Donald left tomorrow, I’d thank him for all that he’s done for the club and remember him fondly. If he stays, I’d expect to see him deliver on a lot of promises that have thus far yet to be finalised despite their suggestion. Either way, the club needs to keep moving in the right direction, and we need to keep supporting the team.

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

Dear Roker Report,

I didn’t want to bring this up because the divisiveness seemed to be dying down and all I want is everyone to get behind the team, but the issue is coming up anyway so I have a hypothetical question that I’d like an opinion on.

Since RAWA have succeeded in pressuring Donald to sell, we all want Donald to find the right buyers. We want them to have the interests of Sunderland at heart, be people we can trust to be custodians of our club, have the nous and experience to run the club well and have the financial capability to invest when we get promoted (and invest more if we get promoted again). Don’t forget, new owners would need to invest a significant figure on top of the money needed to buy the club. The financial position of the club now would allow sizeable investment without breaching FFP rules if we get promoted., thanks to Donalds’s work.

Here’s the question(s):

What if none of the parties interested in buying the club meet these criteria?

Will the #DonaldOut campaign still want him to sell or will we want him to stay?

Should we be happy with the least worst alternative to Donald?

I have no doubt there are parties out there prepared to buy the club but I have no idea whether any of the ones currently in the picture are ones we would want in charge.

If the only available bidders, given the pressure he is under to sell quickly, don’t put the club into a better position than staying with Donald do we really still want him to sell?

We are demanding Donald immediately sell up to this mythical philanthropic investor, some kind of hybrid of Niall Quinn and Bill gates, and fans are writing letters complaining about him taking so long to do it. Bearing in mind it’s only been 7 weeks since he agreed to do it and most of that time was the transfer window, (which I would thought would have kept him busy) I would be surprised if he was even close to finding his preferred bidder yet. There will be more and worse letters if new owners turn out to be worse than Donald. Although the #DonaldOut campaign will be happy because they will get to blame it on him.

Nobody will complain if a new owner is found that can take the club forward better than Donald could. Even Donald said that when he first joined the club. The fact that he is still here implies finding that buyer isn’t that easy.

Some of the damage has already been done. The work Donald did to find investment partners might have already been damaged beyond repair (but maybe not yet) . It can only a distraction to the work on negotiating contracts and preparing for the summer transfer window. The relationship with Donald may well be irrecoverable. I couldn’t blame him if this campaign soured his view of Sunderland supporters, yet we still make demands of him in the same breath as accusing him of lying and selfishness.

I fail to see any other view that this whole campaign is damaging to Sunderland, has already caused damage and will cause more before it’s finished, no matter the outcome. Even if Parkinson does well for the rest of the season it’s likely that new owners will bring their own people in and the club will have to start from square one again, just when we had a chance of a little stability and building on momentum for once.

I will always support Sunderland, no matter who’s in charge. I always give new owners, managers and players the benefit of the doubt and form my opinions based on what I see for myself.

I reckon we should let Donald get on with what he’s doing and concentrate on getting behind the team. Whoever is in charge next season, we should all just want the team to do well on the pitch and get promoted this season.


Ed’s Note [Tom]: Hi Brian, as noted in the above letter, I have been very much on the fence throughout the whole #DonaldOut drama. That being said, I do think it’s worth immediately noting that the club’s ownership did try to sell the club at least twice this current season before any unease emerged within the fanbase. As such, I’m a bit dubious as to whether the #DonaldOut campaign did much other than possibly expedite any potential sale, but your questions are definitely interesting and relevant.

You make a good point as to what kind of new owner we might find should Donald have simply hastened his departure - that’s something to worry about when you look at other club’s ownership situations. That being said, it’s impossible to predict the future, so there’s no way to know what Donald might have done had his fallout with elements of the fanbase been avoided.

Personally, I do think we should let Donald and the club carry on with the work required to secure promotion, but I also think we should also hold to the standards raised as being important to our long term success. That is where, as you have noted, there could be issues.

I must admit that I find it sad to see the relationship between Donald and the fans sour - hopefully the resolution is positive for all parties involved.

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