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Sunderland v Luton Town: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg

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Fan Letters: “Fans should be consulted and changes shouldn’t be dictated by the club”

Thoughts on the importance of good customer service and the ongoing ticketing and merchandising issues are in the RR mailbox today! Got something to say? Email us: RokerReport@yahoo.co.uk

Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Surely the management at Sunderland wants and needs to keep supporters’ faith and trust, but the absolute farce over stadium entry changes and ignoring loyal fans of many years just makes me wonder.

A total underestimation of dictatorial change makes me wonder whether any management skills exist in the hierarchy. I totally recognise and applaud the significant improvements on recruitment and performance, and to be truthful, it’s the only reason I’ve renewed.

However, it’s time for change in other areas.

Fans should be consulted and changes shouldn’t be dictated by the club. In addition, easier access to the club shop and ticket office, and the modernisation of the stadium facilities should also be completed, as well as a switch from Ticketmaster.

Finally, treat supporters with respect, and treasure their loyalty.

Frank C

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

I agree that although huge steps forward have been taken on the football side of things at Sunderland, we lag behind in many other areas, and some aspects of the infrastructure would shame a non-league club.

If we want to make sustained progress over the coming years, we can’t neglect certain off-field problems and hope that they’ll magically improve.

There needs to be a real effort from those making the decisions to address these issues (many of which are long-running) and ensure that every supporter gets the level of service that they should rightly expect.

Sunderland v Luton Town: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final First Leg Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Although I live six thousand miles from the Stadium of Light, I struggle to read the posts on the club’s treatment of its supporters and this is epitomised by the current ticketing fiasco.

I did have dealings with the ticket office at the start of last season while visiting the UK and it was a frustrating and shocking ordeal.

The club’s argument on digital tickets reads as follows:

“The digitally-challenged represent only a few hundred and the vast majority of our 33,000 season ticket holders are fine with it and will actually benefit as administration is streamlined and the saved money can be reinvested into the playing side.”

The club has clearly set out to make this small inconvenient minority disappear by making it as arduous as possible to purchase non-digital tickets and ensuring they don’t publicise how this can be done.

However, these are our parents and grandparents, and are often our longest-serving and most loyal fans. They may be older and suffer from visual or mobility issues but they deserve our respect.

To make them stand for hours in the rain to get a plastic card that could easily have been posted is absolutely shameful. It’s a callous approach and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is now directly responsible for it by keeping Steve Davison at the helm despite his shocking incompetence and disregard for the club’s customers and reputation.

I realise that Roker Report are trying to help by posting the numerous reader’s letters, but this will only get the attention it needs if somebody organises a physical protest and gets TV cameras there.

Could this happen before the Ipswich game with Sky Sports there?

SafcSoCal

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Thanks for getting in touch!

The point you make about neglecting long-standing Sunderland supporters and trying to force them to embrace technology that they might not be comfortable with is a very important one.

‘Moving with the times’ and switching to modern technology is a positive, but it certainly shouldn't be done at the risk of potentially alienating supporters of many years. Everyone should be able to access the stadium to see the Lads play, regardless of whether you own a smartphone or not.

In reality, the switch to a digital ticketing system should've been a phased process, with fans being consulted and feedback taken on board. Instead, the club went 100% towards the new system and the consequences have been entirely predictable.

Let’s hope that the club can rectify its mistakes and ensure that no one is left behind for the new season.

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

Dear Roker Report,

The whole season ticket issue is a shambles, as are the problems with our new shirt.

I tried to buy tickets for my family only to be told that tickets for the Ipswich game aren’t on sale yet. I keep watching the club website after a wasted journey to the ticket office but there’s still nothing on there.

Our new home and away shirts should’ve been on sale for Father’s Day, as it would’ve provided a massive cash boost for the club, and people also like to buy them for their holidays.

I think the club has a lot of questions to answer, as our reputation as the ‘caring club’ seems to have gone out of the window

Steve Davison should consider his position. It was a disaster last year with tickets and shirts, and the same thing has happened again.

Has he not learned lessons from last season? Someone should ask him and the club why this has happened again.

Richard Downey

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

The club, via their deal with ‘Just Sport’, definitely missed a trick when it came to the release of the new shirts.

At the latest, they should’ve been available in late June or early July, to enable everyone who wanted one to purchase a shirt.

As you say, it would’ve given the club a solid injection of cash as well as building excitement for the new campaign, but issues with supply have clearly had an impact.

The kit deal is small-time and not the kind of arrangement that a club like Sunderland should be involved with. Renewing the partnership was another major misstep from Steve Davison, sadly.


Dear Roker Report,

When will our season cards be ready and how will I know whether it’s on my phone?

Dave

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

As far as we know, tickets are due to be sent out the week before the Ipswich game.

They’ll be emailed to your phone and from there, you can add them to your Google or Apple wallet, assuming there are no hitches between now and then!

Apple Apps Photo Illustrations Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I think that the entire fanbase is pleased with the way things are going on the pitch at Sunderland, but off the field, it’s still poor.

On attending the ticket office, I couldn’t help but notice how run down it is, with a tatty counter with holes for wiring, and a tired old decor.

The two (yes, two) members of staff were run off their feet with scraps of paper and a pen while attempting to deal with hundreds of customers.

It was a very poor setup but well done to the two young members of staff who were trying their best with what looked like very little support.

I’d ask Sunderland to make an effort to sort out this point of contact for the fans.

Keith Yeaman

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

It’s well known that the club’s ticket office is understaffed and somewhat neglected, and your experience is (sadly) representative of what many fans have had to put up with as they attempt to get their hands on tickets.

If Kyril Louis-Dreyfus could spend a day in the ticket office and saw the problems for himself, would he make the changes necessary in order to bring it up to an acceptable standard?

He's the custodian of the club now, and if he wants to leave Sunderland AFC in a better place than he found it, he can’t afford to overlook such issues.


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