Ha’way, haway the flags – in time for the Mags

Today, we draw attention to an intriguing new project with the clear target of having something to show for its efforts before noon on Jan 16, when Sunderland AFC must address the small matter of avenging the 5-1 defeat at St James’ Park ….

Still we can’t beat Everton. A good game, in which we had an excellent spell after their opening goal but could hardly complain about the final result. Pete Sixsmith’s considered view will doubtless appear before too long.

But to what extent can the fervour of the crowd spur on a team to greater things? The correct answer, probably, is not always but sometimes.

Pre-match build-ups, with entertainment on the pitch and distraction to be had in the pub or concourse, have certainly produced a more subdued atmosphere in the half-hour before kickoff at the Stadium of Light than I recall from Roker Park.

Last night, our crowd seemed from TV coverage to be in good heart and voice. It’s a two-way process. The players were doing pretty well, challenging seriously good opponents and showing themselves capable of winning; the fans responded as you’d hope.

But anything that lifts the levels of passion and enthusiasm even further – and has the potential to give the players that extra psychological boost that makes the difference between 2-2 and 3-2 – is to be welcomed, and that is why Salut! Sunderland is giving a bit of plug to the Haway the Flags project.

It stems from an article in the consistently top-notch fanzine A Love Supreme by Tom Lynn, an admirable ambassador for Sunderland supporters (among other pursuits, he edited The Wearside Roar, a magazine that deserved better than its premature demise) and a welcome visitor here from time to time.

ALS has now moved things on, and is deeply involved in a campaign that has brought together fans and club in a positive and commendable way.

If Salut! Sunderland readers like the idea of what the movement aims to achieve, they are encouraged to donate amounts, small or large, by visiting this link.

But read on to learn more, as I did in this edited message received today from ALS:

So what is Haway the Flags and how has it come about?

There has been considerable interest recently in getting banners and massive crowd surfers into the Stadium of Light in an attempt to personalise and add character to the stadium. We believe that this would have a positive impact on the atmosphere, increase the intimidation factor and create a great impression of our club and our supporters for the watching public.

Following Tom Lynn’s related article in ALS, interest in such a project was expressed by a small group of supporters, who subsequently met over a few pints to discuss how to get this idea off the ground. Since that time, other interested fans have come on board and we have moved forward together.

Research by the Haway the Flags group has extended to an examination of health and safety issues and discussions with banner manufacturers, football clubs and fans’ groups.

The support of SAFC was considered essential to progress; little point in producing new flags and banners if fans were then barred from displaying them prominently in the SoL. Happily, a meeting with club officials demonstrated SAFC to be “very obliging” and willing to express support for the proposal.

Back to the project’s own vision.

“How will it work? The model we propose to adopt is similar to that of the MUFC fan’s group, Stretford End Flags, whereby Haway the Flags are a wholly not-for-profit fan-run group. And as such are in the process of setting up a website www.hawaytheflags.com. (Salut! Sunderland note: it does not appear to be operational yet, so keep trying)

In future, the desire for a new banner and a financial target will be publicised on www.hawaytheflags.com and through SAFC related media. Financial contributions can now be made through the ALS secure online shop. We appreciate that different fans have different financial constraints so the denominations shop go from £10 up to £100.

Fans who donate towards banners will automatically become members of the Haway the Flags group. They will have their name listed on the prestigious www.hawaytheflags.com subscriber list. All banners will then be run past SAFC for approval. A vote will then be held and the most popular banner(s) will be produced and displayed.”

The aims are more ambitious than merely to “knock up a few banners” and leave it at that. The idea is to produce new banners each season and for special occasions, leading to a process of replacement in which old banners are moved to other parts of the ground to make way for new models in the more prominent positions.

What is more, the plan has an element of urgency. “SAFC have said they would like to see this initiative launched in time for the visit of the Mags to up the atmosphere for that match and that is, ultimately, our aim. Because of time constraints, on this occasion, the Haway the Flags group has come up with some ideas, which we would like your opinion on. However, in future we will work from suggestions submitted by supporters.”


Like it? If so, and you wish to add financial clout to your approval, here is a reminder that you may visit the ALS secure payment site and register a donation by clicking here.


Monsieur Salut

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