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Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light

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Editorial Comment: Kyril’s crisis

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus faces a massive battle now to redeem himself in the eyes of supporters after yesterday’s PR disaster. By some, he’ll never be totally forgiven. We need to see a serious shift in how we operate as a club off the field.

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Since KLD arrived at the Stadium of Light three years ago, it’s been something resembling Jekyll and Hyde.

On the footballing side of things, it couldn’t have gone too much better. Yes, people will have differing opinions on the levels of spending on the team, the focus on youth, the choice of head coach and the potential sale of key players in the future – but when you look objectively at the squad and team he inherited to the one we’ve got now, it’s impossible to deny there’s been a marked improvement upon what was inherited.

The footballing side of things off the field has been invested in heavily too – from Kristjaan Speakman to Stuart Harvey, Robin Nicholls to Stuart English, we’ve made seemingly good appointments that have all had a positive impact on the pitch.

Footballing-wise, I’ve rarely been as positive about SAFC since the days of Peter Reid. We’ve got a plan, we’re sticking to it, and we’re categorically seeing results, albeit not as fast as some would like, but results and progress all the same.

Away from the footballing side of things, however, things have been shambolic – and it’s culminated in the disaster of yesterday which, whether he likes it or not, will always be remembered when talking about KLD’s time at the club.

Just like his lack of transparency when taking ownership, yesterday’s desecration of the Black Cats Bar will be a defining moment in his SAFC story.

Let’s not kid ourselves – those pictures will be around forever, and will be used forever. It’s made front and back pages globally, and everyone in the country is laughing at us now.

And, to be honest, rightly so.

The off-field side of the business was stripped right back under Donald and Methven, and understandably takes some rebuilding. But three years in, little has improved.

Ticketing is problematic. The kit situation is pathetic. Our marketing seems to be non-existent.

We’re run like a non-league club off the field, and the way we’ve seemingly bowed down to the Saudis here – both in terms of handing over the home end, and the desecration of the Black Cars Bar – needs to be a watershed moment for KLD.

While KLD is ultimately responsible for what happened yesterday – and to his credit he didn’t try to deflect the blame when he finally made a statement via Instagram – a CEO cannot micromanage every decision. You’ve got to have staff who are capable of making good decisions, of questioning each other and holding each other to account.

Quite simply, if there is a team behind the scenes that is competent, understands the club and genuinely cares about it, yesterday doesn’t happen.

Was there someone saying, ‘you know what, this might be a bad idea?’. Or did people shrug their shoulders and say ‘nothing to do with me?’.

Buried in the bad news yesterday was another cock up with ticketing – paper tickets have apparently been printed on old League One branded paper, rather than with the FA Cup branding, which allegedly will see us incur a fine, as well as looking seriously incompetent off the field, again.

Now, we don’t know too much about the inner workings of SAFC, but Steve Davison is chief operating officer and has been so for the past three years. He’s in charge daily, and you’d assume he’s responsible for what happens on a micro level.

Since he’s been here, nothing has noticeably changed, nothing has noticeably improved. It’s gone backwards if anything. He’s supposedly a Sunderland supporter – unlike the mag in charge of stadium security.

Other staff off the field have been there for a while. Leo Pearlman and David Jones are non-executive directors who are Sunderland supporters. What about this new fella, David Bruce, who’s apparently a Sunderland supporting marketing expert from the MLS? This stuff, with the redecoration of the Black Cats Bar firmly falls into marketing, branding, PR and brand reputation.

Sunderland v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet League One - Play Off - Semi Final - First Leg - Stadium of Light
Everyone in agreement?
Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Never mind KLD, did all of these people think this was a great idea?

And yes, I’ve heard stories being peddled that the mags have taken liberties and done this off their own bat, and to be honest that wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

But that doesn’t change things. Because all this happened under our noses. All of this happened on KLD’s watch. All of this happened because someone took their eye off the ball, made assumptions or simply didn’t care enough to be there.

Didn’t care enough to check. Didn’t care enough to ask questions.

Didn’t care enough to say no.

And that’s unforgivable.

KLD faces a massive battle now to redeem himself in the eyes of supporters. By some, he’ll never be totally forgiven.

Whether he needs a sacrificial lamb or not is a question only he can answer, but we need to see a serious shift in how we operate as a club off the field.

This is KLD’s watershed moment, and hopefully, he can respond in the right way over the coming days and weeks because it would be disastrous for us to risk all of the progress on the field because of gross negligence and incompetence off it.

It feels like the line in the sand has been drawn – KLD now needs to show what he’s really made of.


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