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Fan Letters: “Do Sunderland AFC actually care about their supporters?”

Ticketing issues are continuing to dominate the agenda as we prepare for the new season. Got something to say? Email us! RokerReport@yahoo.co.uk

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I renewed and paid for my season ticket a while ago and sent off the email saying I didn’t have a smartphone.

I received the instant reply that everyone got, saying an alternative would be offered in due course. With the season almost upon us and having not heard anything more, I emailed them again on Saturday when I discovered that if I turned up at the ticket office on Wednesday, I’d be able to sort out another way to access the ground.

I knew I wouldn’t be the only one with this request so I got to the stadium as early as I could but my heart sank to see the huge crowd queueing outside.

It shouldn’t have been surprising to those in the ticket office that the vast majority of people without smartphones would be elderly, and so it proved. I waited for for hours in the rain with old and infirm people, many with walking sticks and some on crutches. It was very sad to see.

I myself have a back problem and was really struggling when a seventy eight-year-old woman with a walking stick tried to help because no one from the club had bothered to check if everyone was OK.

The thing that I’m really angry about is that all this could’ve been done by email or post.

I could’ve told the club that I don’t have a smartphone and they could've sent me the card that I queued for hours in the rain to try and get hold of. Simple.

Which other industry would make it so difficult for people to buy their product? And what a way to treat someone who’s supported the club since 1965.

Please tell them we’re not happy.

Gerald Kearney

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Gerald. Thanks for your letter and for flagging up the issues you’ve been having with ticketing.

Judging by the photos posted on social media, there was quite a queue at the ticket office on Wednesday (which certainly could’ve been avoided had the club been more proactive, as you rightly say), and it was more than a little disheartening to see so many people being left hanging on.

The bottom line is that all fans- young, old, technologically savvy or not- should be accommodated and their needs met. The argument about ‘moving with the times’ shouldn’t be adhered to at the expense of pushing supporters away, especially on an issue such as this.

That’s just not the way that a club like Sunderland should be treating its fan base.

Sunderland v Swansea City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’ve written to you a couple of times about my problems as a 70+ year old dealing with digital season tickets.

Now it’s a case of credit where it’s due, as I collected my plastic cards this morning and the staff were efficient and helpful, as well as the queue being in good humour.

My message to the club is: why has it taken so long to effectively communicate this sensible compromise? The length of the queues during the last two days clearly show that it was needed, and I guess will be needed beyond this season.

Please think changes through before embarking on them.

Thanks for being a sounding board for the frustrations of many.

Cheers.

Stuart Anderson

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Stuart. Thanks for your letter.

In the midst of this ongoing ticketing fiasco, it’s nice to hear that some fans are having their issues addressed properly, and that you received a good standard of service at the ticket office.

The point you make about communication is an excellent one, and that’s been at the very heart of this problem.

Mixed messages, unclear guidelines and vague advice has been hugely problematic for so many supporters and like you, I really hope the club can address it going forward.

Sunderland v Swansea City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The fans are becoming very frustrated with the season ticket issue.

I don’t like to see people sacked or dismissed but I suggest giving the ticket office manager a warning of ‘get things up to scratch or face an exit’, as the situation is becoming farcical .

Also, the Ross Stewart issue is getting near to the deadline. He says that he wants to stay, so what’s the problem?

Are the owners not giving him what he’s asking for, or is he demanding too much? If this can’t be resolved amicably they have no option but to let him go, which will be a huge loss to the club.

New rumours are flying around every day, so why doesn’t someone stand up and tell the truth about what’s going on?

Another question is why are we signing young players from all over and letting experienced players go?

The latest news is that Alex Pritchard, Lynden Gooch and Danny Batth might be leaving- or is that just another rumour? We need some experience in the first team, and players who can last the full ninety minutes plus extra time. We also need an experienced striker to step into the first team as soon as possible.

There must be someone at the end of his contract who’s available? We let Ellis Simms go to a rival team, but surely we aren’t that hard up not to be able to pay for a good experienced forward who can score goals.

Bill Calvert

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Bill. Thanks for your letter.

On the subject of transfers, I think we’re roughly where I expected us to be this summer, after getting some good business done early.

There’s plenty of time left in the window to bring in the players we need, and I don’t think we’re that far from having a squad that’s capable of mounting a strong challenge this season. It’s also worth remembering that not a single key player has been allowed to leave under this regime, which is worth something in terms of trust.

When it comes to strikers, I do agree that we need reinforcements.

Luis Semedo has made a positive impression so far, but with Ross Stewart still on the comeback trail, there’s definitely a potential area of weakness up top. That said, I’m certain that we’ll have targets in mind and deals that are being worked on, and I’d certainly expect our transfer business to ramp up when we return from America.

South Shields v Sunderland Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’ve just read the obituary of Mike Hellawell by Rob Mason on the official club website and I’m very much surprised by the errors in the piece, as he’s usually spot on.

Rob claims that Mike only scored one goal for Sunderland, whereas ‘StatCat’ has him scoring three. Secondly, Rob goes on to say that Hellawell played for Birmingham against Sunderland in the League Cup semi final in 1962/1963 season.

In fact, we played Aston Villa in the semi final, not Birmingham, and Hellawell didn’t play against us. I’m surprised Rob would make such a simple mistake that has spoiled a former player’s obituary.

Bjorn Shigg

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Bjorn. Thanks for getting in touch.

If Rob did make an error in this particular obituary, I’m absolutely certain that there would’ve been no intent. He’s an extremely passionate and authoritative voice on Sunderland A.F.C. and there’s no doubt that it would’ve certainly been a simple error in the writing process.

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