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Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship

Fan Letters: “Stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes, Mr Davison!”

A cannonade of criticism towards our new ticketing policy and thoughts on our approach to recruitment are in the RR mailbox today. Got something to say? Email us:

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’ve just finished listening to the Nick Barnes ‘Total Football’ podcast which was recorded at the recent digital ticket test at the Stadium of Light, and I’m fuming.

The constant rubbish spouted by Steve Davison and the club on this issue are staggering, and I’d appreciate if someone can tell me if I’m wrong on certain points, or answer my queries.

  • Digital season tickets save on plastic and are good for the environment. Rubbish!

How come a good friend of mine, who’s been a season ticket holder for decades, has never had his card renewed? It’s simply rebooted each season.

  • It’s advantageous for the customer as it saves us the hassle of receiving the card through the post. Rubbish!

How is it a hassle to receive a card through the post? He clearly means that it’s advantageous for the club.

  • People who arrange concerts are moving to e-tickets and the Stadium of Light could miss out on lucrative gigs if we don’t follow suit. Rubbish!

In the past month, I’ve been to gigs at Hyde Park, Birmingham Arena and Badminton Park , and the readers at the entrance can scan phones OR paper tickets.

Does this mean I can download and print off my ticket onto some card and use that?

  • When asked what happens if you lose your phone, he answered that many things are now on people’s phones, so this is just one other thing. Is that an actual answer?

I have a separate ‘SAFC wallet’ with my season cards in (both myself and my son’s) and it only gets used on match days, and my wallet with my bank cards stays at home.

It’s called ‘not putting all your eggs in one basket’, Mr Davison!

  • Nick started the podcast by talking to people who’d queued outside the ticket office for plastic tickets.

I wrote to the club three times about this with no answer, and I live 250 miles away, so did the club honestly expect all supporters who travel a distance to make a round trip?

My son doesn’t have a phone and my email address is apparently going to be used for his ticket, so do I have to pass my phone through the turnstiles to him?

  • His explanation for the late distribution of season tickets is because they had to test it. If this had been implemented in stages, there wouldn’t have been this mad last-minute panic.

I’d put money on mass problems when we play Ipswich.

He claimed you can only test something like this when a big crowd uses the system, yet in the blog, three people had gone through the turnstile before he said, “See, now it’s working fluently.”

  • The ‘speed’ question.

I’ll bet anyone that one hundred people going through the digital readers with plastic cards would beat one hundred people with the tickets on their phones.

There’s nothing to download and there’s no danger of scratching or carefully holding your card in the reader, as you would for a phone, so no, it won’t be quicker!

This whole exercise of ‘moving with the times’ makes it easier for the club to streamline staffing in various areas, but it has few, if any advantages for the fans.

I’d welcome anyone putting me straight on any of these points, but when you throw in the online shop and strips fiasco, I’d love to be locked in a room with Mr Davison.

John Wilson

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

I think you’ve done an excellent job of arguing against both the launch and the implementation of the new digital season ticket system.

As you rightly say, a gradual and phased transition from plastic cards to digital tickets was the way to go, but the club went 100% towards the new system with no real consultation period, and the outcome has been entirely predictable.

Fans should have a choice as to what kind of ticket they use, and I’ve been unimpressed with how the club has almost tried to browbeat supporters into embracing the digital system, and to make it difficult for them to get their hands on a traditional plastic card.

I’m fully expecting problems at the Ipswich game, and with the match due to be televised, it wouldn’t be a great look for the club if thousands of supporters can’t get into the stadium for the first game of the season. Let’s hope it doesn't pan out that way!

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

In line with other fans’ views on various media platforms. I totally agree that the off-pitch aspects of Sunderland are appalling.

The ticketing website and the lack of voice calls to the ticket office is totally useless.

My wife has tried numerous times to purchase our tickets for the opening game versus Ipswich, with zero success.

Get a grip of this ASAP!

Angry Mackem in North Yorkshire

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

Sadly, yours is just one of many letters we’ve received that flags up the frankly shocking standards off the field at Sunderland.

We’re a Championship club with a Premier League vision and a non-league approach to customer service, ticketing and merchandising.

There’s a glaring disparity between what’s happening on the pitch and off it, and it simply can’t go unchecked if we’ve got aspirations of future success.

Dear Roker Report,

This transfer window should be viewed as a crucial test of Kristjaan Speakman’s model for our club, by turning the theory into reality. Hopefully, it’ll make a statement about the club’s direction and its ambitions.

Following the success of last season, do we strengthen the squad and push on towards automatic promotion, or do we consolidate and accept that promotion will be a bonus if it happens? For the sake of the 32,000+ supporters who’ve purchased their season tickets, I hope it’s the former.

One of the main reasons for our success last year was the contribution made by Amad Diallo- not just his fourteen goals, but also how he got the best out of Patrick Roberts.

Some of their interchanges of play would’ve graced any Premier League game, and Neil Warnock has already gone on record to say that if we’d had a centre forward to play alongside Amad, we would’ve finished in the top two.

To not replace Amad with a like-for-like or even better player would be viewed as a retrograde step, and despite his young age, he was proven quality, having played for Atalanta in Serie A before joining Manchester Utd.

I accept that it’s pure press speculation but let’s use the names that have been suggested to demonstrate my point. If we’re to challenge for promotion, the likes of Tom Cannon and Kieffer Moore are no Amad replacements.

I don’t have a problem buying youngsters like Hemir or Frigan or Sydney Van Hoojidonk, but to expect them to replace Amad and hit the ground running at Championship level is a big ask and an extremely risky strategy if we want to push for promotion this season.

No one disputes that the reason we found ourselves in League One was due to the catastrophic recruitment policy at the club, but the transfer system is an integral part of modern football.

The reason we wasted so much money was not the fault of the system- it was the fault of the idiots who oversaw it. I’m happy for the club to bring in as many kids as they want but at some stage, we’ll have to support these kids with players who have proven Championship quality and Premier League potential.

It’s statistically proven that 70% of players aged between twenty one and twenty six never make it (Source:, so for every three youngsters the club brings in, only one will make it.

With eleven days to go, it’s looking like we could be starting the season with one untested young kid as our main striker which would be extremely disappointing, especially as we have known since 28 January 2023 that we need to recruit a minimum of two or possibly three strikers.

It’s no coincidence that Burnley- last season’s champions and by far the best team in the league- had all their key recruitment done before the first game of the season, a clear statement of their intent.

If Amad returns and Ross Stewart signs a new contract, my current feeling of being totally underwhelmed will have been unfounded, and we’ll all have a much clearer idea of where we’re heading by 11.00pm on 1 September.

Steve Williamson

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

On the subject of Burnley, it’s important to remember that they had parachute payments to fund their transfer business last summer, whereas we had no such pot to dip into. That clearly played a huge role in the quality and depth of the squad that they were able to build.

It’s obvious that, under this structure, big fees won’t be spent at Sunderland without player sales.

That’s a key component of the aim of being financially sustainable, and with many clubs at this level in financial trouble, I don’t think being smart and savvy with what you spend is a bad thing at all. It doesn’t mean that we lack ambition; it simply means that it won’t necessarily be a quick route to promotion.

On our own transfer business, I think the Amad question is fairly simple: players of his quality pass this way once every ten years, and the likelihood of replacing him, or even getting close to replicating his quality, is very low.

Would I want him back? Yes, but it feels like a very forlorn hope at this stage.

Elsewhere, the striker issue does need to be sorted out, and I’m also convinced that we’ll be strengthening the entire squad right up until the final days of the window.

Hemir might well prove to be a very good addition, but it would be asking a lot to expect him to lead the line with no support. Hopefully, by the time we kick off against Ipswich, reinforcements will have arrived and we can head into the first game of the season with a squad that’s ready to make an impact from the outset.

New Mexico United v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Just to let you know that I went to the ticket office on Monday and got my season tickets.

I had to stand in a queue for a hour but there were no problems!

Stephen Barron

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

It’s great to hear that you got your tickets sorted. Letters praising the ticket office are extremely rare at this moment in time, so it’s nice to hear of good service being provided.


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