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Immediate Reaction: Sunderland appoint CEO - what does this mean for the club’s future?

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Immediate reaction to the news that whilst Sunderland AFC remains up for sale, the club’s owners have chosen to appoint a new CEO - Jim Rodwell - to run the club on a day-to-day basis.

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Many supporters have been calling for the club to improve their corporate and footballing structure for quite some time, so naturally you’d expect we’d be pleased by the news we’ve appointed a new CEO today, Jim Rodwell, who arrives from Scunthorpe United.

Rodwell leaves Scunny with the best wishes of their owner, who has said “His football knowledge is second to none and he can only add value to his new employers at Sunderland AFC.”

In truth, this appointment perhaps leaves us with more questions than it does answers.

The club statement about Rodwell’s appointment, published on SAFC.com, states:

Sunderland AFC is delighted to announce Jim Rodwell as the club’s new Chief Executive Officer with immediate effect.

Rodwell, who is a former Board Director at the Football Association and the EFL, arrives from Scunthorpe United after spending five years as CEO at Glanford Park.

Also a former player and Chairman, SAFC has appointed someone with vast experience who has performed almost every key role within a club.

This experience, coupled with his undoubted knowledge, passion and connections, will be a huge asset and made him the natural choice as the club continues to progress.

After being appointed, Rodwell said: “I’m honoured and delighted to be joining a club of the stature and pedigree of Sunderland AFC. From my very first meeting with the Chairman, I was sold on his enthusiasm and passion for the club. I’ll be counting down the days until I can get started at the stadium and academy to do all I can to drive this great club forward. I would also like to pay thanks to the Swann family for the last five years and for being so understanding in allowing me to join SAFC.”

Whilst the club remains for sale, there is understandably increased uncertainty within global markets and the economy as a whole due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board’s priority is to ensure that we are well equipped and in the best possible condition to ensure ongoing and long-term success. The appointment of a CEO is seen as integral to these plans and we are delighted that Jim has joined SAFC.

Obviously, the bit relating to the sale of the club is the most intriguing piece of information laid out there - we’re still up for sale, but have made an appointment that, to me, indicates that the owner plans on going nowhere anytime soon.

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Comments in the media in recent weeks from the club’s owners had indicated that a sale could be close, but today’s news would reflect that nothing is imminent.

I myself have spoken with one particular bidder just this week, who is understood to remain keen on buying the club but has baulked at Stewart Donald’s asking price.

The ‘club remains for sale’, but you have to ask yourself: who is going to buy an apparently overpriced third tier football club, with no idea where our future lies, in such trying times? The club is obviously a more attractive proposition in the event we get promoted, but the current status of football as we deal with a global pandemic leaves everything, including Sunderland’s league status, in a state of limbo.

The priority has to be for Donald to sell the club to the ‘right’ type of owner, and until those people come along I guess we have to be patient. That said, if the rumours of the asking price are true then we’re unlikely to see the club sold to anyone until we know which level of football we’ll find ourselves in. As things stand, no clarity has been given from the EFL beyond stating their intention to resume the season at some point - when that is, nobody knows for definite.

The fact a CEO has been appointed at least confirms one thing - that no deal to sell the football club is close, and that this is not only an attempt to address the lack of structure the club has currently, but an attempt to carry on until our circumstances alter.

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Not much is known by fans of Sunderland about Jim Rodwell, who had a long career in non-league football as a player before moving into the boardroom. He’s a close personal friend of minority shareholder Charlie Methven, and aside from his role as CEO of League Two strugglers Scunthorpe United, he’s held similar roles with Notts County and Boston United. He is also a former Board Director at the Football Association and the EFL.

Rodwell isn’t perhaps an inspiring choice on paper, but we do of course wish him all the best and hope that he can help the club to improve in the time that he’s at the helm.

One of the biggest issues fans have had with the Donald regime has been the complete lack of close attention to the running of the club on a day-to-day basis. Here’s hoping that Rodwell will at least base himself in the north east - and, unlike Donald, Fox, Methven and co, his sole focus is his role as our CEO, as it’s understood he has no other major business interests outside of football.

Despite the lack of football to talk about, it has been yet another crazy morning in the life of our fledgling football club. Will we be sold any time soon? Does anyone actually think the current owner intends to sell below what he values it at? Will the current season even resume? Who knows. What we do know is that we now have some actually in charge of the football club on a day-to-day basis, so that’s at least a start.

Here’s hoping Rodwell can buck the trend of unsuccessful senior appointments made by the Donald regime since they arrived, and can play a key role in the club’s renaissance.