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Could today’s RAWA vote to become a supporters’ trust be just the beginning of something?

Sunderland fan group, The Red & White Army, will hold an EGM today so that their members can vote on the motion to convert the group into an official Supporters Trust. Where do you stand on the matter?

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Could this week’s RAWA vote to become a supporters’ trust be the beginning of something?

Rich Speight says...

I’ll be at the meeting on Thursday and intend to speak in favour of and vote for the motion to convert the Red & White Army into a Community Benefit Society, and I’ll be joining and investing in it if and when it’s formed.

I’ll obviously listen to counter-arguments, but I’m strongly in favour of the fans having a more powerful independent and democratic organisation that has the resources to represent our views to the club and to the wider world.

What RAWA has achieved so far is phenomenal and unlike anything we’ve done together as fans before - organising to improve the fan experience at the club and hold our owners to account. The Branch Liaison Committee and individual Supporters Branches have a massive part to play too, and the proposal is for them to play a part in the new organisation.

We cannot ignore the fact that it will allow us to raise money from fans and outside sources if it ever becomes necessary to step in and rescue our club. Whilst it will require expertise and leadership, it will only ever be what we make of it collectively.

As Rage Against the Machine put it, “What better place than here, what better time than now?”

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

Dan Sullivan says...

I’ll be voting for the motion and I’ll be investing in it as well.

I’m in favour of any move that shifts emphasis and influence further towards the fans. Fan support outlasts any owner or regime and Trust status gives RAWA the added authority to advocate for the supporters.

As RAWA have already laid out, this will simply bring us in line with a long list of big clubs with similar supporter groups and the RAWA has functioned as a de facto Trust for a long time anyway.

However, there is maybe a concern that potential investors or new owners would not look at strengthening of the fans voice as a positive prospect. The hope would be that anyone wanting to take on an illustrious institution such as Sunderland Association Football Club would have the best interests of the club as the top priority and would welcome strong, valid scrutiny.

Moving to become an official Supporters’ Trust and all that entails is the next logical step in the process, especially when the club finds itself in such a precarious position. It’s an opportunity for supporters to truly invest in the club and gain a democratic voice which will demand to be heard.

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Malcolm Dugdale says...

I’m pleased the vote is happening but I have been a bit too busy with work pressures, etc, to sort out remote voting. That said, I’m very confident the proposal will go forward.

I’m aware of the overwhelming majority of opinion within the Roker Report team and I am in agreement with that majority. This is an early step but a key one to give us a potentially vital option to help our club survive with potentially varying different levels of involvement from the proposed newly formed supporters’ trust.

While I am very hopeful we will not get to the point where fans’ financial support is needed, establishing a Trust who can both influence and safeguard our club is something we should have done many years ago.

I will be more than happy to pay a nominal amount to vote in Trust proposals and/or initiatives moving forward, and truth be told I’d try my best to find some spare money to save the club if it came to that.

The club clearly means a lot more to us fans than it does to recent owners. I don’t think anyone has “got” the club since Drumaville, so if we have to step up, let’s go there.

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Kelvin Beattie says...

Its tough at the moment to be a Sunderland fan I cannot recall such a period of rancour mistrust and pessimism in all my 55 years of supporting this phenomenon.

The glint of better times ahead may have twinkled from afar, but I am hoping it’s not actually a cataclysmic event in disguise. The glint has come in the shape of RAWA moving toward converting into a Community Benefit Society (CBS), or Supporters’ Trust as it is sometimes known.

It is clear to me that we the fans need to unite behind a strategy. Divided we are ineffectual, bordering on toxic. If we do not identify this strategy implosion must surely follow.

The current owner has made mistakes, the current manager has arguably not had long enough to put his mark on things, but has clearly made mistakes too. But would too many argue with me if I was to say that the current predicament, and precarious state of our club, is not just their fault?

Errors, mistakes and poor planning have been our currency for far too long. The 30-year merry-go-round of managerial appointments (some of whom needed to be moved on, others that should have been given more time) is but one indicator of a grand ship listing helplessly with a compass broken and Captain lost & dithering & with a crew in mutiny.

My career in Human Services has seen me lead teams large & small as well as develop projects/ services that some have called essential. There have been failures, mistakes and errors. There has also thankfully been progress, results and success. I was absolutely blessed to start my human service career working within a team of outstanding individuals in their various fields within service development.

This team had arrived from all parts of the UK and beyond and very quickly developed a key ability to analyse failure and work out a way of not repeating mistakes, developing if you want what I believe is the indisputable relationship between failure and success. I have carried that with me since those early days.

You can probably guess where I am going here. There is little evidence of failure analysis and benefit of such in the last 30 years at Sunderland AFC. From a simple perspective of why does this keep going wrong, we need to do something different if we are ever to see SAFC progress.

It is a difficult angle to argue, society generally has a deeply ingrained attitude toward failure. The widely held belief that failure is something to be ashamed of in ourselves as well as something we can be judgemental about in others has been around for two and half thousand years according to one expert.

Throw football at this and we have a rich manure of blame and recrimination fed by a need for quick results and ill thought through actions led by fear, not calculated strategy.

So why do I think a CBS could make a difference at this juncture? Am I advocating CBS simply because it is something different? Most certainly!

It is different and I believe may fire the imagination of a currently dispirited fan base, who (Brexit apart) probably naturally lean toward people empowerment, from the Jarrow March to the Miners strike, to voting trends at national election’s (up until very recently), we tend toward a fair distribution of wealth, power and benefit. This is definitely part of the attraction for me.

It could be an opportunity to unite a fan base that has resorted to in fighting and finger pointing. Happy Clapper and Snowflake Princess alike could agree to throw their lot behind a strategy that is admittedly risky (daring) and problematic (innovative). This strategy that would demand participation, would demand more than words. The challenge for many of us will be to put our money where our mouth’s have been - it is time to front up.

Does the CBS need to move to buy the club? No, but it does need to set a stall and conditions that make it imperative any owner will work with them to the benefit of the club and its people.

The CBS should/could play a lead role in developing the club’s unique identity. What do I mean by this? I would want the CBS to clearly define who and what we are. I would expect to see the following areas scrutinised researched and developed. The development of young talent, style of play, character of play (hard/fair/grafters for 90 mins and beyond, flair and risk takers on the field).

I would also include the re-defining of the fan base, we are at our best when vocal, appreciative, humorous, fair, constructive and fanatical. For example, the flags was a great innovation, and changed the atmosphere for a while nut arguably more was needed in addition to that lone initiative.

The CBS will need to set its stall early and be clear about priorities. The CBS will have to develop effective working relationships with the owner, and yes I am including the current owner. The CBS will need to hit the ground running in relation to fan engagement and participation - this is not a private club for supporters with degree’s and life histories away from the North East (but it can include these folk or I am out of the picture).

Analysis of where SAFC has gone wrong (as well as right) needs to be committed to. Moving forwards, mistake and failure need to be acknowledged and learnt from in an open way, putting your hand up to a mistake should not invariably lead to the sack or abuse of any kind. Let’s create and build something different.

A CBS does not need to buy the club, but it might choose to or may find itself in a position where it has to for the club to survive. It makes sense in the current environment to be ready for any eventuality.

Bring it on - I am in.

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