Dear Roker Report,
On behalf of the many millions of diehard fans of Sunderland Association Football Club, I extend a warm welcome to David Bruce, who’s leaving the MLS to join the non-playing staff at the Stadium of Light.
Just don’t make the annoying mistake, David, of describing our national game as ‘soccer’ (abbreviated by Americans apparently from asSOCation football). It’s a word that grates on the nerves of the large majority of real round ball football supporters worldwide.
OK, so Americans, Australians, Canadians, Irish and New Zealanders say the ‘s-word’ but two hundred other countries don’t.
Only the USSF incorporates that word into its name but the rest of the national football associations that are members of FIFA are so described in their names.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, TG. Thanks for your letter.
Given David Bruce’s North East connections and his knowledge of the global game, I suspect he’ll have little trouble ensuring that the correct terminology is used whenever he talks about our club and the game as a whole!
Dear Roker Report,
After suffering at the hands of the club’s ticket office, which doesn’t appear to care for supporters like me who’ve actively supported the team for over seventy years, I thought I would update you on my latest experience on this saga, which I’ve written about before.
I renewed my season ticket on 21 March and paid £210 for my car park renewal on 26 June.
I then emailed the club on 27 March, explaining that I didn’t have a smartphone and asking how I would access the stadium on match days.
Five weeks later, I received an email reply from digital support saying that the only way to access would be to use a multiple device from a friend or family member. I repeatedly telephoned the ticket office without anyone answering and then being cut off.
Subsequently of course, and after being put under pressure, the club announced that you could get a plastic card with a QR code.
However, instead of helping supporters by sending these cards out, the club insisted on fans travelling to the ticket office in person with evidence of identification. Where was the trust and customer service there?
I then travelled up to Sunderland through flooded roads in Yorkshire before standing in a queue in the pouring rain and eventually being allowed into the ticket office by a rather large security guard who was bereft of any charm and had obviously been told to admit one person at a time.
My round trip totalled two hundred miles, and I felt so sorry for the two girls who had to check evidence and distribute the plastic tickets.
I asked one of the girls exactly who the manager of the ticket office was and she said that they didn’t have one. Clearly, Mr Davison has ensured that nobody can be held accountable nor contactable for this utter shambles!
Having traveled so far with time on my hands, I then went into the stadium’s main reception area and asked to see Mr Davison.
The guy at reception was very good and sympathetic to this nearly eighty-year-old fan with a twenty five year season ticket history.
He put a call through to Mr Davison’s office but got no reply, and he asked me to put my points in a letter to the club.
This I’ll do constructively to Kyril Louis-Dreyfus with a copy also sent to Mr Davison, and I trust on this occasion I’ll get a reply, as I did when I wrote to the owner regarding his takeover on 16 March 2021.
I apologise for this long tale but my objective is for the club to improve its customer service in the future.
My experience is that organisations who don’t listen to their customers and fail to look after their staff will ultimately fail financially.
This is a great club with a proud history and all we’re asking is that the standards being attained on the field with Kristjaan Speakman and Tony Mowbray are replicated off the field by Mr Davison or his successor.
As a postscript, I must praise the work that Chris Waters is doing during this appalling period of customer service.
Haway the Lads!
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Colin. Thanks for getting in touch and sharing your experience.
I think the point you make about the off-field standards needing to match what happens on the pitch is an absolutely vital one, and it’s something that the club can’t afford to lose sight of.
Huge progress has been made in building a team that we can all be proud of, but when it comes to the basics that you’d expect from any business- let alone a football club of our stature- things simply aren’t up to scratch.
As I say above, the hopefully imminent arrival of David Bruce, a man with vast experience in marketing, should represent a turning point when it comes to communicating with the supporters and ensuring that the standards of customer service are raised.
There’s often been a demand for us to ‘start thinking like a big club’ again, and to me, that means paying attention to all areas and not assuming that success on the field will automatically solve all of the problems that fans are encountering.
Dear Roker Report,
I wrote to you last month to explain how the simplest of things - changing my season ticket to the ‘over sixty-fives’ price bracket- has been going on since March, but I’ve still had nothing.
The club is happily taking the ‘full cost’ on direct debit and the excuses are unbelievable...
‘Please confirm your membership number’
‘OK, here you are. It’s the one you included in the email you sent on the early bird pricing’
‘Please send proof of age’
‘Here’s my driving licence’
‘Please send a different proof of age’
‘Here’s my passport’
‘Have you changed your phone number?’
‘Not since 2019, but here it is’
‘I’ll call you tomorrow…’
‘Hello, sorry for the delay. Clearly you had the wrong phone number on your profile, and that’s been the problem’
‘Really? I’ve never needed to be called in the last twenty years of season ticket ownership, so what next?’
‘If you can resend your proof of age, I’ll sort it for you, but you’re too near to the next direct debit date (July 1st) so we’ll contact you on or after July 10th’.
An email was received the next day, thanking me for confirming my proof of age and promising to be in touch.
10 July? No contact.
20 July? An email sent to remind them with no response.
1 August? An email received: ‘Here is your digital card’.
Downloaded to wallet, checked status: adult - full price.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Kev. Thanks for your letter.
Although your exchanges with the ticket office might sound almost comical as a result of sheer incompetence on behalf of the club, there is a very serious point at the heart of this.
No football club with aspirations of future success and the aim of engaging the next generation of supporters can afford to offer such a poor standard of customer service- not without the risk of people throwing up their hands in despair and simply walking away.
2023/2024 will doubtless see the Lads backed in huge numbers both at home and away, and it’s essential that our loyalty and dedication is never taken for granted.
Let’s hope that a successful season on the pitch can be matched by much-needed improvements in other areas, too.