Dear Roker Report,
Hi, lads! I hope you’re all well.
I listened to the podcast earlier, in which you talked about the fan engagement issues at the club, and where you asked fans to highlight any problems that we’ve had.
I have spoken to, or tried to speak to a few people at the club about fans that don’t live in the North East, and the membership scheme.
The scheme used to be a great way for me to invest in the club and feel part of it, despite not having a season card, and it also represented a reward as I was given a priority phase when purchasing tickets for away games closer to me.
I would buy a season ticket but unfortunately the cost of travel is too high, and I can’t bring myself to pay for an empty seat that another fan could have. Due to the removal of the scheme, I have missed out on tickets for games that are closer to me because I have to wait for tickets going on general sale.
I thought you should know, in case the club ever asks you to provide data to highlight some of the issues.
You were also right to highlight the work that Chris Waters does, as he has often gone the extra mile when others at the club don’t tend to want to solve the issue.
Great job with the podcasts, lads. It’s nice to listen to other fans’ perspectives- living in the South East means that there aren’t many fellow Sunderland supporters around.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Ollie. Thank you for getting in touch - your kind comments about the podcast are much appreciated!
As far as ticketing goes, there is still a way to go to ensure that fans such as yourself aren’t being completely frozen out when it comes to purchasing tickets for away games that are possible to attend.
The club needs to be aware that Sunderland supporters come from far and wide, and just because they don’t live in the North East, that doesn’t mean that they should be forgotten about. Hopefully that is an issue that they can address in the near future.
Dear Roker Report,
Unsurprisingly, given the well-documented and self-inflicted problems that the club appears to have created, I did not receive a reply prior to the QPR game.
However, my son was looking forward to going to the game, and rather than let him down, I went ahead and purchased the three tickets at full price. This meant that I overpaid by £43.00 to save my son the disappointment of missing out.
I don’t expect to receive a reply, however these will be the last tickets I purchase this season, or whenever this mess of a system is resolved, whichever comes first.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: It is unfortunate, and understandably frustrating, that you felt obliged to pay the excess charge simply because the club were not able to resolve the problem with your tickets in good time.
The ticketing system is flawed, to say the least, and the club’s acknowledgement on Monday that certain areas of customer service have fallen short will hopefully be the first step towards addressing an issue that so many fans are encountering.
Dear Roker Report,
These customer service complaints are nothing new.
I raised the lack of lighting in the away coaches’ parking area with the club’s Supporter Liaison Office back in 2015. It is disappointing to read that, seven years later, this remains a problem.
In fact, I became so frustrated with the off-field performance of the club that I didn’t renew my season card at the end of the 2015/2016 season. I raised four issues, but never received a response.
This season will mark the longest period that I have not been to a match since 1973.
Once supporters are lost, it is difficult for a club to win them back, and I have no plans to attend a match any time soon.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: It is a real shame that you made the decision to not renew your season ticket back in 2016. At the time, there was a lot of optimism around, and it felt as though we were on the verge of breaking the cycle of flirting with relegation every season.
Bringing disaffected supporters back into the fold is something that the club must work very hard on. Niall Quinn did it when he took over as chairman in 2006, and it is important that the current regime attempts to build bridges with fans who have perhaps lost their faith in the club during recent seasons.
Dear Roker Report,
I work at the Stadium of Light and I also work at The Riverside Stadium, and the difference in attitudes from the hospitality staff is huge.
Sunderland hospitality staff act as perfect hosts to the customers, but they look at me like I’m lower class. They are very unhelpful, but this is as much my club as it is theirs.
Middlesbrough staff, on the other hand, go out of their way to help me or anyone I work with, and are always engaging in helpful conversations in order to improve the working environment.
On many occasions, I’ve overheard the way the catering kids are spoken to, and it absolutely boils my blood. Do these people receive any training on leadership skills? They show absolutely no respect to these young impressionable adults, and therefore the trend continues from generation to generation.
At the end of the games, you often leave feeling like you’ve not bought an actual ticket, and that you have no right to be there!
My family have had three season tickets for years, have been to 25% of away matches, and all of the Wembley games. In addition, we have also bought home and away strips for our children and grandchildren.
When you leave Middlesbrough games, the catering staff often bring hot leftover pies and burgers to the staff exit to give out to any staff member who wants one, along with a lovely ‘Cheerio, see you next game’. How nice is that?
My final point concerns the family enclosure (or lack of one) at the Stadium of Light.
Compared to Middlesbrough’s, with a lowered ceiling with good bright lighting, football tables, sweet carts, games consoles, and colourful characters painted the doors of the girls and boys toilets. Also, there are seats painted to look like the stadium’s substitutes bench.
This is very nice is for families with young children, but ours is a joke.
Sunderland have really lost touch with the real world and working class folk. and it has turned out just as James Allen thought: commercialisation and corporate hospitality catered for.
The two clubs are in the same league but are worlds apart when it comes to who they care about. It is the same as life itself, with the 11% in the higher taxation class being looked after again and again. Money talks, and maybe it’s time to start watching Hartlepool United: a real club in touch with real people.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: You raise some excellent points in your letter, and the issue of the ethics and values of the club, and the way that people are treated, is an important one.
Sunderland has always been a community-based football club, a club at the heart of the city, and everyone, from the catering staff to the supporters who come through the turnstiles on match days, should feel as though they are a part of it and should be respected equally. The fact that you have often not felt that way is unacceptable.
Regarding the issue of class divides in football, that does seem to be a worrying trend. If clubs like Sunderland lose touch with their core supporters, they will find it incredibly hard to regain their loyalty, and I sincerely hope that those running the club are aware of it.
Dear Roker Report,
The club has taken the fans’ support for granted for far too long now.
Sunderland really must step up and treat the supporters with respect. We may lose money by opening the ticket office and club shop for an extra couple of days per week, but we could also gain supporters for life as a result of it.
Buying a match ticket or merchandise should be an easy experience, but this isn’t the case at all. Trying to purchase a ticket online, via a mobile phone, is almost an impossible task, and taking phone lines out and making it difficult for some supporters to get in touch with the club shows how out of touch the club is with certain sections of our fan base.
The stadium is now also starting to look tired, with overgrown bushes in the car parks and dirty advertising boards around the back of the lower bowl. It is turning into an unpleasant environment to spend your Saturday afternoon.
First impressions mean a lot and when people see the ‘Jiiiiiiii!’ poster and other signs around Sheepfolds, what must they think? They are old, tatty, and need replacing as soon as possible. This won’t cost the earth but it will make a difference to supporters and to the reputation of the club.
It is frightening to think you cannot buy a Sunderland kit in Sunderland, yet you can buy a Newcastle one very easily.
With on-field performances and attendances the best they’ve been in several years, now is the time where the club should be stepping up their marketing and selling the club in the local area, but none of this seems to be happening.
Supporters seem to be at breaking point, and it’s hardly surprising when you look at what we have had to put up with over the past few years...
- The Jim Rodwell Q&A season ticket refund
- Supporters changing all of the seats
- 100 point claims
- Delays on away ticket news and ticket deliveries
- Lack of responses to emails
- Queues at the ticket office and the club shop
- No Nike toddler kits
- Big price hikes in the Black Cats’ Bar
- Not being able to sit with friends or family because the club won’t open the premier concourse
- Booking fees and delivery costs from the club shop
- No ‘click and collect’ option
- The inability to use a season card discount online
- The club can’t be contacted via phone
- Lack of merchandise availability
- Poor refreshment options inside the stadium
Sort it out!
Ed’s Note [Phil]: I fully agree with your comments regarding the state of the stadium. Both inside and out, it is looking tired and in need of a revamp. Quite how high this is on the club’s list of priorities, nobody knows, but taking pride in the stadium should be a given, and they cannot continue to overlook it.
Regarding the ticket office and club shop, it is baffling that the club are potentially driving fans away due to restrictive opening hours. Open the doors and people will flock through them, and the same goes for retail outlets.
The fact that there is no club shop in the city centre is almost unbelievable, and it is another area where a potentially lucrative revenue stream is being overlooked.