It’s been happening for far too long now and I’m sure almost every Sunderland fan has been affected by this point, but some of the off-field decisions and management at our club recently has beenunprofessional, frustrating and frankly embarrassing.
I am writing this at 1:10pm on Monday the 24th of July having just bought my tickets to the Sunderland Women v Newcastle United Women friendly online. The tickets were supposed to be available at 12 noon but for some reason they weren’t, and I know I wasn’t the only one sitting refreshing my phone until Ticketmaster decided I must be a bot because no one in their right mind would sit staring at the same screen for so long.
Now normally a short delay to a ticket release isn’t too big of a deal - yes, it’s frustrating but these things can happen, it’s just the nature of technology that occasionally it doesn’t work perfectly.
But the thing is, here at Sunderland AFC, these hiccups don’t just happen occasionally do they? I’m not about to list every single mishap over the last year or so but being let down by the admin aspect of the club has become such a regular thing that most fans consider it completely normal.
My colleagues and I here at Roker Report were scratching our heads while waiting for the tickets to be released wondering why the club hadn’t even sent a solitary tweet to acknowledge the delay.
In fact, the club needs to be asking themselves if they think they are really doing enough with their social media and marketing. Did you know the lads have a pre-season friendly at home against Mallorca coming up? A few of the regulars down my local pub didn’t. Did you know that the lasses have a friendly against Newcastle coming up? The regulars in my local definitely didn’t.
That’s a marketing issue that needs to be addressed, particularly on the women’s side. Our team is at a crucial point in its development as we change to a hybrid model and to drive the club forward it’s going to need as many fans attending as regularly as possible. So why is it that you can only find 4 mentions of the Newcastle game on the official SAFC Women twitter?
️ Tickets are on sale now!— Sunderland AFC Women (@SAFCWomen) July 24, 2023
Now, I must stress that I’m not criticising the individual actually writing and posting on Twitter or any other social media channel. Generally speaking the content on there is pretty good, but the overall marketing of key things like fixtures and communication with fans about important information is lacklustre to put it politely.
During my chats with the folk down at my local pub you can really understand how this affects fans and genuinely makes supporting the club they love more difficult.
Branches have had trouble obtaining season cards after the switch to digital-only ticketing. These are people who commit hour after hour of their free time to organise travel and tickets for dozens of others out of a passion for SAFC, and they were telling me that they actually feel like the club doesn’t like them and doesn’t want them to continue with the recent changes and the poor communication that has come with them.
That leads me on to the people who don’t have access to a device smart enough to use a digital ticket. The anxiety and anger amongst fans who thought they might not be able to attend matches because they don’t know how to use a type of technology they’ve never used before was horrible to see.
Again, all of this negativity was created by the club’s decision and then exacerbated by the way they communicated (or rather didn’t communicate) with those fans afterwards. One older gentleman who has had a season ticket every year since before I was even born was made to wait for over three hours in the Stadium of Light car park just so he could have a new copy of a card. It’s utterly needless and unfair.
Another complaint I heard was particularly sad as a father told me that he couldn’t even find a version of the new away kit for his daughter in the city centre.
His comment was along the lines of “It’s easier to buy a Newcastle shirt for my bairn in Sunderland city centre”, and it’s true.
In fact, my fear at the moment is it’s becoming much easier for our youngest supporters to access other teams, particularly in the women’s game. After the Lionesses’ triumph in the Euros last summer there was a massive opportunity to ride that wave of momentum and the club failed to capitalise. Other clubs up and down the country, especially in the top flight and notably our neighbours, have taken advantage and are seeing tangible results already.
If Sunderland aren’t careful we could be left behind in the women’s game and while on the pitch it might take some time to reach the next level.
The least they can do off the pitch is make it as easy as possible to engage with the club and be a part of what could be a really exciting journey.
The message from fans is clear - sort it out and do it soon, because right now we’re being let down.