On the pitch, there are no real complaints - but the ticket office has been decimated.
I heard tales of queues snaking around Black Cat House last week, only to be broken up by bully-boy tactics come 5pm, when most of the queue had arrived before the 5pm close.
I had always done my business with the ticket office via the phone. It was quick, and efficient.
This year, my direct debit for my season card hadn’t been collected in May or July, yet I still had an email saying that the season 22/23 games would be loaded onto my card.
I didn’t trust it.
I tried to call the club. This was impossible, with the phone lines being removed.
I was left with no alternative but to go to the club the day before the start of the season. The queue was halfway back along the car park, and it took two long hours to finally see a ticket-office staffer.
Following Monday’s update relating to supporter services and engagement, Sunderland AFC is set to implement the following operational changes.— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) August 17, 2022
The club claimed my direct debit had been rejected and the only way to reinstall my season card, was the pay the new inflated price of £390.00 in full. Not the £340 it should have been. The club claimed they had left me a voicemail, but I hadn’t received it.
Then ludicrously, they didn’t simply reload my existing season card, but insisted that I receive a new season card in the post and gave me a paper ticket for the Coventry game the next day.
Luckily the card arrived on the Wednesday before the QPR game. And even, more of a relief, the card actually worked when I used it for the first time. Which wasn’t a given.
My astonishment is this: Why have the phone lines been cut? My query could have been handled in ten minutes, rather than me have to trek all the way to the stadium to queue. I thought the days of queuing outside the ground died after the semi-final queues outside Roker for the 1992 FA Cup.
I asked the person in the ticket office why the phone lines had been axed and her reply was a deadpan “we have prioritised emails”. But emails don’t even get answered.
What would have happened if I still lived in London? Coming to the ground the day before the match is not an option.
Making fans queue for hours outside the ticket office is barbaric. There was an older guy behind me and he was struggling.
It’s just so disrespectful to the fans - so many errors are being made.
The club released a statement on the matter on Tuesday, but in my opinion, the statement addresses little of what caused the problems at the ticket office over recent weeks. Why don’t they reintroduce the telephone lines? That would be the simplest solution.
They’ve at least committed to longer opening hours now, as well as liaising with fan groups about some of the common concerns that have been raised in recent days. Let’s hope we see some answers and resolutions. And soon.