Amid all these transfer thrills, why I’ve given up my season ticket

From Jake's new autumn range ...
From Jake’s new autumn range …

Sounds like one of those grim Daily Mail confessionals its female feature writers seem to be obliged by contract to write. In fact, it’s our own esteemed deputy editor, Malcolm Dawson, explaining a momentous decision. Malcolm remains a fervent Sunderland supporter, as he’s been all his life. He’s still deputy editor, thank heavens, and he’s even information officer for the Heart of England branch of the SAFCSA, which he helped to found, despite having moved back to Co Durham. Let him explain what he is not …

The furore regarding the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as manager caused many left wing thinking Sunderland fans to examine their principles and question their willingness to renew their season cards. But not me.

I had in fact decided not to renew my season ticket whilst Martin O’Neill was still in charge, cancelling my direct debit well before the home defeat to Manchester United. In fact I have my suspicions that whilst results and lack of vision inevitably played their part in O’Neill’s dismissal, it was the threat of mass season card cancellations that was the final nail in his coffin.

Pre-season sales might not mean so much these days in terms of a club’s overall income, but the lack of guaranteed financial commitment and useful money up front, combined with a lower home attendance and subsequent lack of atmosphere, must inevitably give cause for concern.

My reasons for not renewing were varied. Missing one game because of a family wedding and two others when I had commitments in other parts of the country immediately wiped out any savings I would have made by obtaining tickets on a match by match basis. Added to that was the fact I could have gone to three of those games for £10 each and I had actually spent considerably more than I might have done by having a season card. It just didn’t make financial sense to renew.

Then there was my seat. I spent all season listening to the constant invectives of the persistent whiner behind me and his thirteen year old apprentice, who were experts in finding the negatives, even when the team was playing well. Unfortunately with O’Neill in charge there was plenty to whinge about, but having to suffer poor performances with those two behind made the uncomfortable excruciating.

Also, I was on the end of a row and with the blokes to my right arriving late and leaving early each half, going to the loo or for another pint while the game was in play, I was bobbing up and down at least thirty times each match. With my knees I can do without that.

But my reasons were more deep rooted than that. I’m not the only regular visitor to this site who looks back at the pre-Sky days with nostalgia and it’s not just the vast sums players earn these days. There was a time when a football club was just that and the objective was to win trophies. Those who were in charge of the clubs were on the whole local businessmen, some of whom may not have known much about football and were after a bit of local status, but generally speaking were part of the community and wanted success for the club. Look at how much the 73 Cup win still means to us. Nowadays finishing fourth or avoiding relegation, are seen as more important than winning the “greatest knock out trophy in the world.”

It seems to me that nowadays football is seen as a way for (in the main) wealthy foreigners to add to their business portfolio, juggling money, saving tax, investing for financial gain or whatever and the needs of the average fan come way down the list of priorities. Extortionate ticket prices, inconvenient kick off times which are changed at the drop of a hat, lack of feeling for tradition (Cardiff’s red shirts and Ashley’s crass renaming of St James’ Park for example) with little thought given to the views of its fans that the two way loyalty that existed is being diluted. Fans stay true to their club but in recent seasons, that loyalty appears to be appreciated less and less and is not returned.

But for me the bottom line was value for money. Football is seen now by the club owners and media as another part of the entertainment industry so I ought to expect entertainment for my hard earned cash.

Last season (not for the first time) I simply wasn’t getting that. Why, I asked myself, spend upwards of £30 a match being bored, frustrated and disappointed when for the same amount I could take in the rough and tumble of the Northern League, a visit to the Sage or the theatre or a few pints and a visit to a folk club or a host of other alternatives? Once again, last season saw me questioning the wisdom of committing myself to ten months of disappointment and frustration.

And then along came Paolo. Up until now I haven’t made my thoughts public on his appointment but some of his well documented political statements made me uneasy.

I have to say I thought the club handled his appointment badly and were unprepared for the reaction to it. Had they and the new manager made the statement they made later in the week much earlier, I believe the controversy could have been minimised. I’m not one to say that politics has no part in sport. I believe that the anti-apartheid movement and its sporting boycotts accelerated the changes in South Africa. I also observe the hypocrisy of those who use that argument, for example ignoring the treatment of Basil D’Oliveira whilst supporting cricket tours of South Africa years ago or calling for James McClean’s sacking whilst using the “politics has no place in sport” argument to back the signing of Di Canio in more recent times.

I try hard to be consistent in my approach to political issues so when I was asked on a radio phone-in if there would have been the same outcry had the club appointed a known Communist, my reply was that there probably wouldn’t have been but if they appointed a known Stalinist I would expect a similar reaction.

I can understand McClean’s refusal to wear a shirt with a poppy on, bearing in mind his background, so it would be disingenuous of me not to apply the same logic to our current manager. I’ll accept him and continue to support the club as, whatever he has said and done in the past, he is there to do a job in which his personal heroes ought to be irrelevant and which the club should monitor.

It is Ellis Short, Margaret Byrne et al who should determine the image which the club promotes and I would expect them to ensure it is a positive one. I notice that Swindon Town however have just settled out of court with Paul Boden who was suing them citing mistreatment by our new manager.

But what can’t be denied is the breath of fresh air he and the rest of the new backroom staff have brought to the club. Dropping Bardsley for the Spurs game, the threat to players coming back overweight, the promise of a new work ethic and of course a whole raft of new signings fills me with optimism for the coming campaign. Of course, having seen my first Sunderland game 49 years ago I am accustomed to new dawns and the subsequent reality that optimism can be unjustified.

So I’m hoping that this really is the start of a new era but I’ll reserve my judgement on the new look Sunderland until I am certain there is improvement. What is certain though, is that despite my reservations and the thoughts of giving up watching Sunderland I was having before the Man Utd game, I’ll be there on August 17 and right behind the team.

Ha’way the Lads.

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7 thoughts on “Amid all these transfer thrills, why I’ve given up my season ticket”

  1. Agree with the piece,hits many nails for me…stopped buying a season ticket about 4 years ago.Still do to every game I can though.I have moved season ticket seats 3 times and went from sitting in front of a similar pair of infuriatingly annoying whingers behind me to a really foul mouthed rear guard section who turned the air blue and stopped me taking my daughter to games….morons….Finally I got a pleasant seat with almost no annoying fellow supporters…just was so high up in the Premier concourse you got nose bleeds.

    I also had the end seat at Roker Park in a row with the man with the worlds smallest bladder.He and jis mates arrive 5 mins late….pissed…and he needed the gents about 5 mins,with his mates staggered at about 5 min intervals from thereon in…maddening.

    I would also agree that the standard of football we have been served of late should warrant a visit from Trading Standards to SOL.Why do we put ourselves through it all?…..I also have the mischievous feeling that after all this hype and hullaballo over new signings and outward transfer that we will be looking for a new manager by Christmas…you can quote me.

  2. The £10 tickets do annoy me sometimes but if it encourages new fans or fans who are genuinely skint to get to a game, fair enough .As for the moaners we had one sitting behind our group for a couple of seasons , a thoroughly odious specimen who even used to shout ” get in” when the opposition scored! After a number of pleasant exchanges with myself and others in our group, he moved seats.Thats the trouble with season tickets in an all seated stadium , if your next to a horror your stuck with them but you can move.Stick with it, we all have issues from time to time but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

  3. Nooooo, Malcolm. The modern age where everything is marketable may annoy but you can’t let it stop you attending football. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if touch put all the financial aspects to one side then you can still be at one with the game, but you have roker allow it. I’ll admit that coaching helped me in this aspect but it’s still you and your connection to te lads in red and white.

    Hoping to stay in the league has always been a realistic aim for SAFC anyway, what the other sides do shouldn’t be our concern. Buying a season ticket is much more symbolic than saving a few quid. My brother and I have saved our backside off under difficult financial circumstances because the time we spend together and with friends watching te lads has been the one thing that has kept us together and will always be the common bond.

    See the game how you want to see it, screw anyone else. If the people around you at the game are arseholes then move seats. The football can not possibly be as uninspiring as last year.

  4. This article sums up almost exactly the reasons I have also given up my season ticket after 15 years of 500 mile round trips.The difference is that whilst I remain a loyal supporter,I saw my first game 45 years ago,I will not be going to see the lads while PDC is in charge.

  5. Good Article.

    The sad truth is that SAFC no longer needs its supporters in financial terms.Gate income pales into insignificance with the new TV deal (something between £60m and £75m per season).

    It might be argued that there are more SAFC “supporters” outside Britain given the Premier League saturation of foreign TV networks and with EVERY SAFC game being broadcast abroad.That gives a new slant on football belonging to the common man.

    So if TV rules and the “real” audience is not in the ground, what is the next step? Cardboard cut-outs and piped crowd noise. Anything is possible with a talented TV director.

    It would be appropriate for the club to spread some of its new found wealth for the benefit of supporters. Slash season ticket prices by 50% ,show some faith in us,or is faith a one way street?

  6. Great post! Football and it’s clubs no longer belongs to the common man, but try as we might to shake them off, we keep coming back, season after season. And why? The hope that this season will be better than the last.

    Keep the faith!

    Ha’way the lads!

  7. Buying a season ticket is a statement of support not a financial investment. Yes I miss some games and could buy cheap £10 tickets but choose instead to support my team as I have for the last 41 years not because it is logical or sensible but from a sense of passion. If that passion dies then folk music or the sage may be an alternative but I sincerely hope that never happens.

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