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Editorial: Sunderland fans look to you to sort these problems, Mr Davison. It’s time to act!

An open letter to Steve Davison.

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Dear Mr Davison,

The last few days have got us properly riled and a bit emotional because of the good people that have been let down by our club.

There are a growing number of personal stories landing in our inbox, and that we’re seeing on social media.

These are stories of families who are desperate to actually support the club they love, of parents and grandparents who want to bring their children to their first game, of long term fans who want to keep attending matches after a serious illness, or just regular people who just want get whatever little niggle or big issue they have resolved.

They are all, frankly, pissed off at the lack of attention to detail and the sheer lack of capacity at the club.

Your job is to run the business of Sunderland AFC - which means you have the responsibility to ensure that we, the supporters of this football club, are able to play our part in making it a success.

Right now, it feels like you and the board don’t particularly care about the ordinary people who put their hard-earned cash behind the company. It’s not brand loyalty that means we are lined up trying to get into the club shop, it’s our love. It’s our passion. It’s our culture.

You’re meant to be one of us. That’s one of the main reasons you were recruited, isn’t it?

You’re meant to have that connection to the fanbase, that local touch which, combined with a lifetime of planning big projects, means that you can drive this club forward as a commercial enterprise and as a community asset.

But it increasingly looks from the outside like you are in fact a man whose decision-making is driven by what the historical data tells you, rather than what is plain for any reasonable person to see with their eyes.

You give the impression of someone whose natural caution, risk aversion and need to follow pre-set plans mean that when things change, when the spreadsheets and models have not predicted something, you are unable to fix the problems and make good things happen quickly.

You have some amazing staff - the people in the ticket office, the people stewarding the games, people like Chris Waters who is doing the job of a whole department on his own from a Twitter account. Right now, it feels like they’re being hung out to dry by a remote, uncaring, penny-pinching hierarchy.

The longer the abysmal level of customer service persists due to the lack of people employed in key positions, the longer the tone deaf communications and unimaginative marketing messages are pumped out, and the longer the unintelligible decisions you’ve taken regarding opening hours and digital-only systems continue, the more people you will lose to apathy or to competitors.

All of this is undermining the goodwill that our management and teams have built up over the past six months or more. And believe me, we as supporters appreciate the job that they’re doing and the progress that’s been made on the pitch establishing them back where they belong.

However, you should know by now that this football club is not an IT system or a railway. It’s not something predictable, it is something that is driven forward by emotion, by skill and by passion. It’s a collection of human beings pulled together by the love of our wonderful sport and our beautiful city.

Our club’s modern motto states very clearly that we are about the pursuit of excellence. Our old motto is also important, too - we are the caring club. Or at least we are meant to be the caring club, and we are meant to pursue excellence.

The longer people stand in queues in thirty degree heat in the hope of having a ticketing issue sorted, the longer people wait on the phone before the line goes dead, the longer people sit waiting for their season cards to arrive or for multiple email queries to be answered, the shorter our collective patience is becoming.

We want to be able to buy merchandise. We want to be able to easily book tickets, and receive the ones we’ve already paid for. We want to be able to talk to other human beings who have the authority and capability to resolve our problems. We want to be able to plan our weekends.

That should not be too much to ask.

Everyone out here in the real world is very, very aware of the severe economic issues that this country has managed to plunge itself headlong into without so much as a whiff of a plan B. So if there are insurmountable issues with labour markets and supply chains that are way out of your control, then your job - and that of your fellow board members - is to communicate these reasons publicly, candidly and with a level of transparency that goes way beyond the sanitised minutes of quarterly Supporters Collective meetings.

You are the head of a multi-million pound cultural institution with very, very wealthy owners and tens of thousands of more than willing customers, some of whom are not currently being served.

Your job is to speak the truth not just to us as your customers but also to those above you in the food chain who control the purse strings. They’re very bright, very capable young men surrounded by some very astute, very experienced lawyers and advisors. They can handle it, I’m sure.

All we want to do as supporters is to enjoy watching our teams play, week in week out, alongside our friends and families. We’re so bloody tired of off-the-field stuff. Honestly... it’s exhausting.

So tell us what you're going to do, how you’re going to do it, and then sort it out - the Sunderland fans deserve so much better than what they’re being given currently.

RR


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