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Minutes of fan group meeting with Sunderland’s new owner released - here’s what we’ve learned

The first Structured Dialogue meeting between the Fan Collective and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and his team last Wednesday has answered many of supporters’ pressing questions about the future.

Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

This afternoon, the minutes of the Structured Dialogue meeting on 24th March between Sunderland AFC and the fan collective, including Red & White Army, The Branch Liaison Council, SAFC Supporters’ Liaison Group and the Senior Supporters Association, were agreed between the parties and released online for all to read.

Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman, Chief Operating Officer Steve Davison, non-executive director Tom Sloanes, media chief Oscar Chamberlain and Supporter Liaison Officer Chris Waters joined Kyril Louis-Dreyfus on the call, and the owner opened the meeting by giving a statement of his intent in purchasing the club, setting his custodianship in the context of the wider family business that lies behind his fortune.

Every owner has different intentions and reasons of buying a football club and to understand mine I wanted to share a couple of things about my background with you.

Firstly, I am a very passionate football fan, having grown up around this sport with my father. Also, I grew up around the family business. The business is essentially growing and distributing food around the world and is celebrating its 170th anniversary this year.

With having such a long history within a company that has stayed in the family for so long, it had to weather a lot of wars and crisis over the last two centuries. We always gave the next generation two distinct values that I would like to share with you.

Firstly, to understand and respect the responsibility that we have to help feed the planet, and secondly was to always think long term and try and improve the business in a way that ensures when the next generation takes over, they inherit a business that is better than the previous generation had.

I will have the same two values at heart throughout my ownership of this football club. I understand and respect the responsibility that I have. In the case of this club, it is to all the fans and to the community that cares so dearly about the club and secondly, I will always think long term to try and improve the club so that whoever comes after me can continue to develop the club even further.

I think regardless of how long I will stay at this club, maybe 10, 15 or 20 years, I will only represent a small part of this club’s rich history. However, I hope that this ownership and our era will be the start of a long lasting and sustainable and hopefully more successful era for this football club.

He went on to confirm that Stewart Donald, Juan Sartori and Charlie Methven do retain minority shareholdings and that they will “support the club as much as they can”, before reiterating that he has executive control of the club.

The minutes go on to outline the key points made in a PowerPoint presentation, most importantly the sections on the strategy and structure of the club going forward. The five strategic themes the club will focus on were given as:

  • Establish a high-performance culture across the club.
  • Developing a football philosophy based upon Sunderland’s values and identity.
  • Opportunity for young players through a holistic development programme
  • Evidence-based decision making embracing data and technology.
  • Aligned and engaged with communities, supporters and businesses.

This is important as it provides a set of reference points for fans to look at and sets recent and future developments at the club in context. In terms of organisational structure, a organisational chart was shown to the fan groups and was highlighted as important for setting the high-performance culture at the club. Key appointments have been made, particularly Head of Player Recruitment and Head of Analysis and Data who should both be in post in the next few weeks, with additional staff to follow including possibly in the areas of Performance and Medicine. The first meeting of the club’s newly reformed board will take place in April.

The meeting addressed both business and footballing matters, which included outlining that the footballing identity of the club would be “representative of the people in the community and all SAFC fans” and “focused on an increased attacking output and a quicker and more intense press out of possession” as we have witnessed in the first team’s performances since December. Importantly this “football philosophy is to be developed across all age groups, including the first team and Sunderland Ladies” and that “there will be a Sunderland way of teaching the game to all ages.”

The fan groups were told that Speakman has been in discussions with Lasses manager Mel Copeland to create a strategy for her team to grow over the next three to five years, including seeking the quickest progression to the Women’s Championship possible.

In a key statement of intent to move towards greater equality in the level of support given to players representing the club in both men’s and women’s senior teams, the minutes report that “a strategy is being developed to support the women’s programme and provide all the provision to match the first team.” This is something we here at Roker Report particularly welcome, and our writers will follow up on in the days to come.

The meeting also set out the club’s strategy with season card renewals, with tables and charts available as part of the minutes setting out the timescales and showing where Sunderland sit in comparison to the pricing structure of other clubs. There will be a three-year plan to enhance and improve the whole match day experience at the Stadium of Light, which should in turn increase revenues for the club. A fan survey will be conducted to get our perspective on these improvements.

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