I have a memory of typing up an article a while ago where I stated I was just plain sick of talking about the Sunderland ownership situation - it was around the time we learned of KLD assuming control of the club.
I’ve spoken since about the relief felt when we saw the Donald/Methven/Eastleigh mafia chapter closing, with a new dawn beckoning filled with promises of the implementation of a long-term vision - an actual future for a club that had been teetering on the brink of oblivion as far as we fans were concerned - and that the absolutely vital financial stability we sorely lacked in previous years was finally heading our way.
Now things haven’t been quite as simple as we might have all hoped; questions surrounding how much of the club was owned by Kyril Louis-Dreyfus - or #sharegate as I refer to it often - how much influence and control he actually had - and more importantly for many - how much influence the now minority shareholders had over club business rumbled on.
By the time we eventually found out some of the details of the deal struck to make KLD and his (close childhood friend) Juan Sartori the controlling party at the club, we were well into our first full season under their joint stewardship.
The timing of the release of this information was not good at all from my point of view, the retention of the information by many parties only for it be released at a time seemingly intended to purposely and significantly harm the club, well I found that a bit strange.
But that’s by the by now, it’s one of many curiosities of the past season, and just speaking from the viewpoint of being part of a group with many sources... whenever we learn something new at RR, within the editorial subgroup and the larger group of contributors a few things are considered and debated:
- the significance and relevance of the information
- the accuracy of the information received
- the source of the information itself
- the seeking of further clarification from other sources that backs up both the credibility and reliability of the source and of the information we’ve received from them
- who benefits from the passing of information to us and its possible public disclosure
- the impact generally of revealing or disclosing said information to the fanbase
- the legal implications and/or ramifications of full disclosure of the information
- who benefits from revealing things to us that can’t be disclosed for legal reasons
- the risk to individuals within the group and the risk of exposure of the source
- the impact on team performance, player performance, the impact on the manager/coaching staff’s work, and general club stability
Now this isn’t done in a ‘ticking boxes’ way, we aren’t actually journalists at Roker Report although we have many in our ranks, we are actually fans - a great many with strong opinions on many issues.
So the conversation within the group that ensues is, to me, a sort of precursor to how I imagine any story will play out when it hits the site, pod feeds, and the social media channels. It’s often not far off either, our disagreements with one another on points - along with our agreement on other points - all tend to track well with the public interactions we see on a daily basis. Sometimes these discussions go on for hours, sometimes for days, some for weeks, months, and quite a few have been going on for years.
The original arguments that followed the joint statement demand for SD to sell the club resulted in arguments between the group and even family members that then resulted in people stepping away from editorial in protest at the actions taken at the time.
My questions about the timing of the release of information from us - or our observation of the timing of the release of information from journalists and other media outlets - are almost always the same, especially since the aforementioned events.
I’m generally very sceptical, almost always combative, often belligerent, occasionally incoherent with rage, and generally paranoid.
Here’s where what I’m actually talking about comes in - I’m f*cking tired. Absolutely knackered, I’m exhausted… and not just because lately my grandson likes to test my physical limits as time catches up with me and that I - like everyone within the group - have a life beyond RR and Sunderland.
I’m tired of the ownership saga, and I imagine so are most of us.
I think what Tom White - a genuinely lovely lad and dedicated fan of our beloved Sunlun - missed the opportunity to say in his recent appearance on the podcast is that the anger he was referring to and has been in receipt of - unfairly in my opinion in this case - that people feel and are demonstrating in many ways is part of a collective form of PTSD. That isn’t to downplay Post Traumatic Stress as a condition in any way - I have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a diagnosis of PTSD from extensive childhood trauma, and various other diagnoses of conditions that have plagued me for most of my life. I’ve also been a carer for people suffering from complex emotional and psychological difficulties since a very young age, I don’t take mental health issues lightly... though I will joke about them often.
I’ve been involved in fan media for some time now and I’ve actively supported our club since the 80s, I spend most my waking moments thinking about it and like most mackems, I’m utterly obsessed with my club to the point that life without it is something I simply cannot consider. I yearn for it - including all the information I’m often sick of hearing about that I know will enrage me - even though it feels like it may kill me.
I simply - rightly or wrongly - don’t like talking about the ownership any longer, the boardroom, the f*cking games rich men play, the business models, the public relations strategies, the ongoing and seemingly endless saga surrounding anything club hierarchy related... As it’s all I’ve done for years, and hilariously not because I ever really wanted to.
I frankly didn’t give a monkeys for a long time, but because it was all an absolute mess and it spiralled rapidly out of control, I felt the need to say something - do something. Anything at all to somehow highlight the mess so it could be put right. We all did and many still do.
Now we’re promoted back to the Championship - a remarkable achievement might I add as I think this is the first thing I’ve written since that wonderful week leading up to a beautiful and historic weekend for our club - we have a financially pretty well off majority shareholder with full control of club business, and that promotion under his belt in his first full season, and the only thing I want to know is that this will continue to be the case regardless of the presence or otherwise of minority shareholders, as I crave stability.
I get excited about stability and to some extent, the idea of mundanity, the idea of our club being - for want of a better word - normal. Because we’ve never f*cking had it as a club. When good things happen to our club we all bounce around in our big happy bubble, but fans like myself expect our bubble to burst… because we’re pessimistic by nature or through experience, and we are in fact realistic to some extent - tortured by memories of failure and misery that has a very real significant impact on our psychological well-being.
So even if it’s just threatened that some unknown or known entity is walking towards us bouncing around in our happy bubble with a pin or sharp object on show... We freak the f*ck out.
That was my initial response to the news of the deal struck between SD/CM and this ‘TFT’ crypto group; Freak out/attack on all fronts/neutralise the threat/protect the club/protect our future.
It’s something I think most feel currently and I do share the opinions of many in the fanbase that this particular group are not welcome at our club, their inexperience is not welcome at our club, their overly tight stonewashed denim shorts, their dreams of profiting by confusing and exploiting our fans with their crypto-nonsense... It’s just not what we want, need or desire from new investors regardless of their share size. To quote Yeats to any possible buyers and any current shareholders would be theatrical and somewhat dramatic but this resonates with me:
“But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”
The issue with the TFT deal reveal is that - for me anyway - the more I thought about it the more it reminded me of every single time people have manipulated or attempted to manipulate not just the situation, but the fans themselves to suit their often bizarre and almost deliberately vague aims, desires and general agendas. I go through the above processes within our group and I start to calm myself down, even while those around me take up arms to fight the latest battle against another existential threat.
It is my belief that people behind the scenes at the club are trying to manoeuvre themselves into a position of power and control, trying to exert pressure on others behind the scenes, and the people that get caught up in this process simply by reporting on developments within and surrounding a story like this usually end up paying a price for their disclosure and perceived involvement. See the treatment of Tom White since he relayed the most basic of information he’d received to the fans on social media - he’s a lad that cares deeply about his club and fellow supporters - and so do many of his detractors. I believe him when he says he’s not (knowingly) part of some grand scheme and I don’t think his aim was anything but to break the story.
Don’t get me wrong - as the journalists at RR will tell you - I’m not a fan of all journalists or often the wider industry for various reasons, but I’m equally no conspiracy theorist… although to be fair that’s exactly what a conspiracy theorist would say, isn’t it?
I’m still convinced this whole thing with TFT is a play, whether TFT are aware of it themselves even, to get the attention of our chairman - as it did funnily enough - and I’d have avoided covering it like the b*stard plague as I just hate feeling like I’m somehow helping destroy a collective good mood a mere couple of weeks after promotion for the benefit of known or unknown entities seeking to destabilise, undermine or profit somehow from the ensuing panic.
But a lot of information is best out in the open - free from the shadows and able to be examined fully, as my friends and fellow contributors at RR are currently seeking to do with this news, and they have much more to say on the matter as do many others at other outlets.
But I just… don’t. Not publicly anyway. Whether I will again or not is another matter but I think that’s ultimately the point of this piece as I’ve said.
I absorb it all, I acknowledge it, I accept a lot of it, I don’t accept some of it, I’ll argue with people about it and I’ll think about it regardless of whether I want to or not.
I process, edit and publish the information, the conversations, and the opinions of others on all of it - and will continue to do so - but really... I just want to talk about the f*cking footy lads and lasses.
Hopefully, very soon, we can get back to just that.