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Sunderland show more green shoots of recovery

Sunderland AFC have announced a range of environmentally friendly measures, but can they benefit the club as well as the planet? 

Chief Operating Officer Steve Davison spreads the word with Dan Neil

Although there have been some disappointing results across all levels recently, I think the general consensus still is that on the football front, Sunderland are heading in the right direction. There is still room for growth however with regards to some of the other aspects of the club of course, but two announcements made by Sunderland AFC on Monday seem to go some way to help address off-the-pitch matters too.

Certainly, the news that sections of the Premier Concourse will be open next season feels as if it has been very well received.

Whilst I won’t be looking to relocate I know the area is popular with a lot of fans, and if it encourages a few stay-aways back into the Stadium of Light then all the better.

It was the other story that really piqued my own interest though, and whilst some of the reactions to the detailing of a new sustainability strategy have been rather predictable, I’m very keen to see how the proposals develop.

It is easy to simply suggest that Sunderland should simply focus on the pitch or make vague comments about supposed ‘climate conspiracies’ but there is a wider picture here and even if you are sceptical about certain environmental debates there are merits to the club being more self-sufficient.

Even the most cynical amongst us must appreciate that fuel costs are a huge drain on resources; being smarter therefore about the energy that gets used makes a lot of sense and will eventually result in more money being available for team strengthening.

That alone should be enough to want to watch Sunderland try and implement changes but speaking from purely personal point of view I like seeing us exercising our social responsibility.

I don’t profess to be an expert on these matters, but as an individual, I do try to be conscious about the choices I make and take heart from larger organisations looking to do that too on a larger scale.

Government targets on carbon emissions could well become law in due course anyway, so getting ahead of that is a wise move.

Dr. David Bellamy OBE plants an oak tree at the Academy of Light in 2000 as part of its inauguration, but now more is planned. Image from the 2002 Sunderland annual.

Smaller decisions like switching out non-LED lights, replacing the floodlights at Eppleton and introducing a transport policy will all contribute to a reduction in waste, as will reusing rainwater and eliminating single-use plastics.

Yet it is the bigger steps, such as installing solar farms at the Academy of Light and stadium car parks, that would appear to have the potential to be real game changers. I don’t know for sure whether these ideas will be enough, or how they will pan out in reality, but the scale would indicate that these plans are not just token gestures and that there is a commitment at a high up level within SAFC to at least try and make positive calls.

The desire as well to try and link up with Sunderland City Council and help take forward innovative mine water heating exploration could pay dividends. It is an intriguing project that may keep the area at the forefront of new thinking and could further boost the club’s own reputation for doing things a better way.

I have written before about how a burgeoning city can complement efforts to carry the team forward, and with another major film studio complex being proposed recently all eyes are going to be on the Wear. Sunderland AFC needs to be aligned with the various parties involved to ensure it gets some of the benefits and you never know, after seeing us beat Queens Park Rangers earlier in the month somebody like Will Ferrell might end up getting one of those new Premier Concourse season cards.

These initiatives might not make as immediate an impact as a new signing, but if carried out in conjunction with other operations they can go towards the ultimate goals. Calculated scouting and backroom appointments since the arrival of Kyril Louis-Dreyfus have set things up well on the pitch, particularly for the men’s first team, but there have been calls for some time now for other parts to get some attention and investing in the wider infrastructure will hopefully aide important matters like fan experiences and ground maintenance.

These foundations can all link together and would suggest an element of solid forward thinking, so no matter what your mindset on the state of the planet most Sunderland fans should be cautiously confident about the future of the club.

Coming after a weekend where another mob lay bare their current morals and an apparent general lack of awareness, the setting out of these green credentials was not lost on me - and I hope they pay off in every sense.


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