The price and choice of the beer, food and refreshments.
The current pricing and options make the prospect of having a drink in the ground or the fanzone before a match completely unappealing.
Take the beer for example - the choices are your bog standard types like Carling and Strongbow. They’re served in a plastic pint cup, are often flat and tasteless, and you’re charged anywhere from £3.80 - £4.20 for the privilege.
Now if I go five minutes away from the ground to, say, the Victory Club, it’s a much better experience. It’s £2.80 a pint, it’s served in an actual glass, it’s a nice drink, you’re guaranteed a seat in a warm room with live football on the TVs, and the queues aren’t too bad.
Why would I swap that experience to go and stand in a cold, souless concourse drinking crap, overpriced beer?
The club have to somehow make that side of things more appealing. Imagine if even a portion of the thousands of fans who drink in the town and bars surrounding the SOL brought more business into the Stadium of Light?
It would undoubtedly help to boost the club’s coffers.
The food choices are just as uninspired and overpriced. Three pound-odd for a burger or pie - why not source ingredients from local suppliers and sell dishes that people would ACTUALLY like to eat? Imagine selling stuff that the north east is famous for, like pink slice, savaloy dips, ham and peas pudding sarnies or panackelty - they’d make a killing!
Ultimately, the club need to somehow release themselves from whatever horrific catering contract they’re currently shackled to and adopt a more sensible approach. Make the drink choices more varied and affordable. Give us food that we’d actually enjoy. Improve the overall experience of being inside the ground say, one hour before kick off.
Above all else, it makes financial sense to try to drive your customers into the ground earlier than five minutes before kick off. And the resolution is simple - just give them what they want!
Cheap bottles and pints, decent scran, and we’ll be happy. Is that too much to ask for?
Phil West says...
It might be a bit trivial, but I would dearly love to see us bid a not-so-fond farewell to the halftime challenge. It had a certain kind of spirited appeal for the first five or six games during which it was held, but there comes a point where seeing two supporters running the perimeter of the pitch and then trying to score, accompanied by corny music and even worse commentary, does start to wear a little bit thin.
I’d much prefer it if the halftime schedule consisted of the prize draw, and then allowing the kids onto the pitch for a brief kick-about.
Off the field, the concourse areas are in desperate need of sprucing up and modernising. Walking into your home stadium should always be an experience that fills you with pride from the second that turnstile clicks open, and while the SOL is not exactly cracking and crumbling, it is certainly showing its age outside of the seating areas. The toilets are not exactly sparkling, and the catering outlets just feel tired and in need of change.
Much was made of the replacement of the faded pink seats, which went a long way to making the stadium look respectable again. I’d love that to be complimented by some renovation work on the areas that the TV cameras don’t see, but are equally important for us fans nevertheless.
If we do want to raise the standards at our club, ideally under new ownership in the not too distant future, let’s not make a half-baked job of it. Let’s do it properly and get everything raised up to a level of which we can all be proud.
Rich Speight says...
I would build on the success of the Roker End and give each part of the ground a proper identity of its own. At the very least I would like, after 20 odd years and however long we’ll be locked out of the place, when we return to the Stadium of Light each stand has its own name, perhaps reflecting either the geography of the city or the history of the club.
I’m sure there would be a way for the club and fans, through the RAWA and BLC, to organise a vote on what names should be. It would also be fantastic if the kind of artwork that has brought colour to the concourse at one end could be replicated throughout.
Chris Wynn says...
The improvement that I think would make the biggest difference although controversial is the addition of safe standing.
To see the South Stand become a modern age terrace would make all the difference not only to the people who enjoy getting in the thick of that sort of atmosphere but also to those who don’t.
There has been a lot of talk recently about Roker Park and the sound that came from the Fulwell End. Don’t let anyone fool you, there were days where it was understandably quiet but there were days where a third of the capacity of the Stadium of Light made twice as much noise.
There is still work to be done to make sure it’s safe and policing these areas well are of paramount importance.
Recent events may also mean that is either a non-starter permanently or potentially for way into the future.
It’s maybe the closest some will get to experiencing a football that is maybe lost forever but I fear it’s wishful thinking that this option will still be on the table.