Supporting Sunderland- it has to be a bug, doesn’t it?
My friends think I am mad; my family respects it but doesn’t particularly understand it, and I am lucky to have a partner who hasn’t left me yet considering I am basically unavailable on Saturdays between August and May. All par for the course as a Sunderland fan.
Purchasing a season ticket for the upcoming season was never something I had to think about too much. In fact, I feel that it has become as much a part of my yearly routine as my infrequent yearly visit to the dentist.
The only difference this year is that life has changed for almost everyone in the world, and we are all finding times a little tougher financially. The horrific events that are currently happening in Ukraine, along with the general financial downturn, has had a knock-on effect for everybody.
I acknowledge that these issues seem trivial and maybe even a little vain, considering the unimaginable horrors being faced by people in other parts of the world, but for the purposes of this article, there are valid points to consider for football clubs around the country.
For any football fan, an away day is an integral part of backing your club.
At times, it can be a lot more exciting to stand in the away end of a stadium. Being part of a smaller, compact group of fans often creates a cauldron of noise that can sometimes be louder than that made by the home support!
Also, the opportunity to visit new stadiums is very exciting, and especially this season, when we will make trips to the likes of Bramall Lane, Ewood Park, and The Riverside.
From my perspective, however, the away day experience is being hampered. Hampered by expensive ticket prices set by money-hungry clubs, which are creating unnecessary obstacles for supporters, at a time where every penny has become more and more precious.
The question must be asked- are clubs doing enough, or could they be doing even more?
As I write, the ticket details for our upcoming away matches against Bristol City and Sheffield United have been released. Indeed, I had to double check before realising that the adult price of £33 per ticket for both games is accurate.
For comparison, Coventry fans are asked to pay £28 for a game in the same league within a couple of weeks of each other, whereas Sunderland are charging £29 for Coventry’s trip to the Stadium of Light.
Whilst understanding that clubs need to make profits and maximise their revenue, it seems remarkable and bewildering that they can justify these variations in prices, particularly in the current climate.
It makes the ‘Twenty Is Plenty’ campaign, which calls for the price of away tickets to be capped, all the more justified.
This initiative fascinates me, and I am sure that it has also struck a chord with countless others. Their mission is to ensure that fans can afford to attend games, with tickets not surpassing the £20 mark.
After checking their website, it seems that every club in the EFL Championship has branches or Liason Councils associated with it, reinforcing the notion that it is an issue for every club in the league.
With that in mind, it feels like the perfect time for fans of all clubs to drive home their support for this campaign, on the eve of the new season.
As it is, an away day is a very expensive undertaking.
Between petrol and/or travel costs, food and drink, and sometimes even accommodation, an away trip can often resemble a mini-holiday. Times are tough right now, and the club should be doing their very best to encourage supporters to attend away matches, instead of pricing them out of the equation.
Sadly, instead of making the away day experience an enjoyable and attractive one, it appears as though they are more concerned with ensuring their pockets are lined.
Football fans are a loyal bunch and will try to support their team as much as they can, even in spite of any financial difficulties they may be facing. This appears to be their undoing when it comes to away ticket prices.
Another question that must be asked is why should football fans be punished for their loyalty at a time like this?
The truth is that fans and clubs both need each other, and this should be the time for cooperation and a willingness to compromise, to ensure that supporters do not have to break the bank in order to follow their team.
The ‘Twenty Is Plenty’ campaign strikes me as one which is perfect for the times in which we currently live, and it is an initiative that I think all Sunderland fans should be lobbying for the club to sign up to.
For the first two away games of the season, two adult tickets will cost £66, and that is before parents consider whether they would like to bring their partners or their children.
From a quick glance around the other clubs in our league, the away tickets are ranging from £24-£33, and one should question the disparity from following your team to Carrow Road or Deepdale in comparison to Bramall Lane or Ashton Gate, because I have no doubts that the facilities in most of the grounds are generally of the same standard.
Furthermore, the price discrepancies between Sunderland supporters and those of other teams is an issue that no doubt that will raise its head again after the Bristol City game.
It is wholly abhorrent and unacceptable that one team should pay a different price to another, purely because they may bring a larger following to the game.
This is an issue that our club should be addressing, in order to defend our own fanbase and respect the fact that we support the club in great numbers home and away. It is the least we deserve, but if it is not addressed, I can see people protesting by way of non-attendance at matches, and they will be conspicious by their absence. It is not an option that many would like to take, but it may be forced upon them.
The opportunity for fans to speak up is now, and the time for the clubs to act is now.