For years, through good times and bad, Sunderland have proudly taken large allocations to grounds in all corners of the country. The loyal backing has rarely been rewarded, that is until recently. An improving away record has meant even more reason to hit the road following the Lads.
So far this season, we’ve sold out almost every away day we’ve been on. This includes over 2,500 going to Stoke and 3,200 making the mid-week trip to Leicester. The latter is made more impressive by the amount that Leicester wanted our fans to stump up, and the fact it has been picked for Sky Sports coverage.
Tickets went on sale earlier this month and were snapped up in good time. The price of an adult ticket for our corner of the King Power Stadium was £35, a high amount for any second tier club. Add into this the fact that over-65’s and under-22 tickets were just £2 cheaper and you’re looking at a club intent on fleecing an away support they know will sell out.
What we as Sunderland fans are experiencing now is home teams asking us to pay more than other clubs. Earlier this month, Preston fans were paying £30 to watch their side at Leicester, and it doesn’t stop there. Sunderland fans were charged £37 for adult tickets at Coventry City back in August, yet weeks later Watford fans paid £30.
In the context of football tickets, the £5 and £7 difference is big. In terms of a time where people are in need of keeping a tight hold on purse strings, it’s huge. Yes, going to football isn’t a necessity but it’s a passionate pastime that so many football fans enjoy. Sunderland fans shouldn’t need to fork out more than fans of other teams just because we are almost guaranteed to fill our allocation on every away day.
This might be a case of shouting into the void, as this trend will simply continue. You look at the away trips coming up and even the huge treks to Swansea and Plymouth will at least sell well, if not sell out. Not all teams will take advantage of our following, but it speaks volumes that already, in mid-October, multiple clubs have.
Of course another of the reasons why our followings sell out and often quickly, is because of just how great it is following Sunderland on the road. Even in defeat, which luckily doesn’t tend to happen much at the moment, the occasion is always one to savour. Having large pockets of fans around the country does no harm too, and seeing the Lads play is somewhat of a rare privilege for many of our exiled supporters.
It’s this idea of the enjoyment of watching away games which could well be a reason in our good away form, both this season and last. Since our return to the Championship we’ve taken thousands of fans on each and every away trip. More often than not, we make more noise than the home fans and in-doing so, give our team the boost they’ve needed to go on and get results.
Out-singing home crowds is one of the best psychological advantages you can have in football, but despite this clubs continue to give us big allocations. The game down at Hillsborough saw almost 4,000 Sunderland fans create an atmosphere which made us seem like the home team, although it probably helped that the mood at Sheffield Wednesday was through the floor at that point.
It will take a catastrophic implosion at Sunderland AFC for our away followers to drop off. Even in the depths of the League One despair, thousands in red and white followed us up and down the land. This has become a hindrance in the sense that other clubs sense an opportunity to charge us more, but it is also a huge boost to our team and, at the end of the day, that is what we all want.