Dear Roker Report,
First time I have made contact with a fans forum, I had to comment on the shambolic state of how the club is being run on the commercial side.
We have a club shop that is never open, a ticket office that is never open and an absolute absence of any responsibility from the club either acknowledging the problems or better still communicating what is going to be done about them.
If we want to be a tech savvy innovative club, moving away from physical buildings and contact with other humans then we need a best in class digital service for fans - easy to use online ticketing, a club app, a support structure for those that struggle with it all. What we have is a perfect storm for a disaster, with the shop and ticket office barely open, online systems that are barely fit for purpose let alone best in class and a support liaison team down to the bare bones. A part of me can admire the ambition to move towards a great online service model but let’s be frank we are a million miles away.
Can the club please accept where we are, get back to basics, open up our outlets (shop and ticket office), get the fans engaged again and able to put their money into the club. Then we can think about what’s next.
I am sure the club acknowledged (dare I say in Donald’s era) that a club shop at the ground doesn’t work brilliantly outside of match days - to the point where it was even suggested moving it to the ground floor of the ticket office building. Personally I think people will find a way to get there but regardless of where it is, to have a fully fitted out retail unit sitting closed when you have customers wanting to spend money is madness.
You could argue not having a city centre store is pretty crazy too, especially when there are so many options. The club ran a successful concession out of Debenhams, has that been considered?
There are many vacant shops in the city centre, could the club put something back into the community and bring one of those back to life? I’d hazard a guess you could run a city centre store for around £100,000 pa max plus staffing. I know a bit about property but I’m no expert on retail sales but even if you just covered property and staff costs and broke even this would be a positive outcome for all concerned.
The club absolutely needs to make sure they aren’t wasting money (we have been there before) but they don’t need to make a profit either. Taking it one step further, could the club look for volunteers to help out in the club shop and donate any profits to charity?
Imagine a fully open city centre club shop, helping to regenerate the city, staffed by volunteers/fans, accessible to all fans and run for the benefit of local charities - I’m not sure how feasible it is but wouldn’t everyone win!?
This is about more than the here and now. For every person who can’t get a ticket, can’t buy a shirt for their grandchildren or simply give up trying, we run the risk of losing them forever, worse still lost to them up the road.
A very frustrated fan
Dear Roker Report,
I am still waiting for my two away tickets for Sheffield United and as of yet haven’t even had a reply from our box office with to the query I sent to them. Out of desperation I emailed SUFC’s box office and received a reply within less than an hour!
They said that Sunderland should issue them with a list of tickets that have not arrived in the post. This will normally be a few hours before KO and that I will need to collect re-printed tickets from a collection kiosk, which is adjacent to their ticket office by showing my confirmation email.
However, reading between the lines, this could mean tickets not received by SAFC from SUFC rather than tickets sat in the SAFC ticket office somewhere waiting to be posted out, who knows?
So well done to SUFC for actually showing some customer “service”. But should I risk a 4 hour round trip hoping that SAFC have notified SUFC? Will my tickets be there and how long will I have to queue if this has happened to hundreds of others? How early should I set off? Come on SAFC get a grip!
As many have already said our club is a shambles off the field!
Dear Roker Report,
We were told “all season cards have now been issued” Errrrrr, no they haven’t, where’s MINE?
I missed a call from Ticket Office about two weeks ago to take a season card payment and the voicemail said to email them so they could arrange to take that payment. So I did, and thus far have not had a reply.
A week ago, in frustration, I sent another, complaining and asking if anyone was answering emails. Clearly not as that got no reply either!
A multi-million pound club where a fan can’t find a way to get an answer from the club regarding an issue? Or ring anyone? What sort of club is THAT? A Sunday morning club is better organised, it’s an absolute disgrace and I’m fuming.
Dear Roker Report,
Just read your excellent editorial (I say excellent, it makes shocking reading).
I have been emailing the club to see if they could suggest anything for my Father’s 80th birthday.
Numerous emails have gone unanswered and I’ve taken my money elsewhere.
As a lifelong supporter and son/grandson to generations of SAFC this is not acceptable.
I agree we need to shout at those in charge. It’s an utter disgrace and I won’t be spending any more off-field money with the club.
Dear Roker Report,
After my previous whinge, I’ve got to say the atmosphere on Saturday against QPR was great. The fans really got behind the team and gave them their support throughout. I really enjoyed the game it’s just a shame about the result.
QPR made much better use of their subs bench than we did, we left ours 15 minutes too late. With fresher legs I don’t think we would have conceded that free kick so close to our goal or at all. Alex Neil came out and said he didn’t have any “specialist” replacements, no doubt to emphasise the need to get signings in, not that any was needed.
But he had already changed shape by switching Simms, who didn’t look tired and playing well, for Roberts who also did his bit defensively high up the pitch as intended. So, Alex could have changed shape again to bring on more fresh legs. When asked to play right back or right-side CB, Bailey Wright has impressed before, albeit in League One, despite what Alex Neil said about him only being able to play in the centre of a three, so he could have come on much sooner for say Dan Neil with Luke O’Nien moving into midfield.
On a separate point just to add fuel to all those other emails about the back-office shambles at SAFC. I purchased two tickets on 4th August for the away game this Wednesday at Sheffield United. The tickets still haven’t turned up with two days to go so looks like I might have blown £80 on match tickets and pre-paid car parking.
Sent emails to ask where they are, can’t phone ticket office, nor is it open until Friday, so too late to collect in person if needed. I know which seats I have bought but don’t have any tickets to get in!
Why is the club so silent on this aspect, we its customers after all, in other fields any company operating to this standard of customer care would soon go out of business!
Ed’s Note [Chris]: Another day and another host of emails to RR regarding the shambles that our club currently are off the pitch. We are a laughing stock. From the outside it actually appears that the club have gone to some effort to make it this bad, by literally having nobody to do the jobs that are required in the club shop and ticket office.
Even other clubs like Sheffield United are beginning to experience a knock on effect of our incompetence. They should bill us for the time their staff have had to spend sorting our problems out.
My own experience this summer has been with the club shop, or the lack of one. My son’s birthday is in the summer and he specifically asked for Sunderland gear - and from the end of the season until his actual birthday there was not one thing I could buy him on the website, and the shop wasn’t open to buy him anything in person.
How many people have been in similar positions for getting kids Sunderland merchandise on the back of that Wembley win? Either for summer holidays away, birthdays, or just simply because we’re riding the crest of a wave back in the Championship. But, nope, not one single item for sale. We’re a joke.
We’ve let things get so bad that I don’t see a quick fix and see us having to suffer for a good while to come.
Dear Roker Report,
I live 200 miles away in the Midlands and have great difficulty obtaining away tickets unless they go on general sale. Rather than standing by the stairs of all our buses as they arrive and asking, has anyone a spare ticket I can buy, is there anywhere our supporters advertise the fact they have ticket/s to spare?
This Saturday 20th August is particularly maddening as I live in Staffordshire.
Ed’s Note [Chris]: I would think you are not alone in trying to get away tickets. In my opinion the loyalty points system needs a rethink.
A site as you describe would be useful as well to put sellers and buyers together as long it is policed that it is at face value. I think after speaking to a friend recently, that Spurs have a very good platform to deal with this which works for their home games as well as away.
But, we’re a million miles away from the club directing this sort of initiative if they can’t even post the tickets for a single away game or distribute season cards they took money for two months ago.