Is it me, or do Sunderland always get an iffy result straight after they release details of the next season’s renewal and purchase prices? Everybody connected with the club will have been desperate for a win against Lincoln City regardless of course, but a feel-good factor is always going to provide a boost when it comes to ticket sales and the three points on Saturday would have been a nice way to follow up what seems to be a positive set of administrative decisions.
Maybe I am being apocryphal, and I dare say that when times have been good the yearly season card presentations have come when everybody was on a roll, but it is understandable that some people will take a little extra convincing after the four seasons now at this level and with the points dropped at the weekend only increasing the chances of another League One slog next time, Sunderland needed to get it right.
Results will influence sales to a point but there are other more controllable factors too, and the initial response to the 2022-23 launch would suggest that the decision-makers have got their home in order. The Lads did more than enough to win at Sincil Bank and that has left supporters feeling frustrated, but the fanbase would appear to appreciate the season card offering in the main and after previous announcements that is a positive step.
There has been confusion in recent times regarding some aspects of the season card deals, and mixed messages from some of those at the top only increased the sense that people’s loyalty was being questioned.
It was good therefore to see a comprehensive FAQ’s breakdown plus a short but clear addendum concerning any pro-rata refunds that may be necessary in respect of any potential Covid-19 issues, whilst alongside that the list of benefits now being put forward will garner a lot of goodwill; most supporters do not expect to be given sweeteners for wanting to back the team, but bonuses like money off SAFC Store and concourse purchases are always welcome.
These add-ons may not cost the club much in the grand scheme of things and may even encourage sales they wouldn’t have otherwise received, but most importantly at a time when many are feeling battered and bruised by years of on-pitch struggle and outside world pressures, they offer an idea of not only receiving value but of the fan actually being valued too.
Base line prices add to this impression too – following strong suggestions that ticket costs would be increasing next season the club has now acknowledged that this is not the moment to be rocking the boat. Nobody relishes paying more for something at the best of times, but all things considered, it was right for SAFC to listen to the concerns and revisit the spreadsheets on this occasion.
On a personal note, one really pleasing element to all of this is the return of free entry to U23 games. I’ve been a regular attendee at reserve games for years but due to personal circumstances this has dropped off over recent seasons; things are changing again though so I’ve been able to catch a few matches during 2021-22 at short notice and not needing to sort a ticket at the last minute anymore will remove that little bit of chew on.
For anybody that hasn’t taken in a game at Eppleton I would highly recommend it – U23s football has its own issues, but you do get to see some of the young lads coming through and I’d take watching any Sunderland side live over some faceless Monday Night Football all day long.
Staying at Eppleton, the addition of SAFC Ladies’ fixtures on our cards is another fantastic move. My teenage daughter is a season cardholder and we have managed to start going to a handful of the lasses’ games again since restrictions have eased – she was thrilled when she saw the news, which has instantly made her feel more important to the club and will do it a lot of good.
It is another pointer towards joined-up thinking and the more we see of that the better.
Everybody accepts that off-field matters at Sunderland need attention.
There are some very hard-working individuals across different levels at the club, but we are being told that they are hamstrung by outdated infrastructure and systems. Strides are seeming to be made however and me receiving an email within hours of the season card statement that broke everything down concisely for my specific payment type showed this.
Past seasons have not always been as straightforward, and it would leave me having to hunt around for the information whereas now I know exactly what is happening – one less obstacle, and hopefully, an indication that proper planning can mean less leg work for all.
There will always be a balance to be had between running costs/cash flow and acknowledging that fans are experiencing financial issues themselves.
I have seen some fairly valid comments about the number of Direct Debit installments for instance and there could well be other issues that are not applicable to me, but processing thousands of payments will never be able to suit everybody and given the fact none of us even know what division we will be in next season I do feel the 2022-23 arrangements are pretty strong. Hell, even Kathryn Robertson’s promotional illustrations are mint, so credit is certainly due to Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and co. for their efforts.
Being a season card holder can mean a lot to people and many see it as a badge of honour.
You can bet then that fans that are willing and able will sign in huge numbers, and you have to assume that behind the scenes everything has been costed properly and that the relevant admin is in place.
It would appear so on the face of it, however, and hopefully this will be a precursor for a successful 2022-23 in general; it would be lovely to think that next season’s greetings will come amidst more certainly on the pitch.