Sunderland AFC fans hit back at Stewart Donald
Sunderland AFC chairman Stewart Donald “needs to take a good look at himself” after blaming fans for holding up a sale of the club.
That’s the message from Fan’s Museum founder and life-long Black Cats supporter Michael Ganley.
And a leading fan’s group has accused the chairman of slapping a ‘ludicrous’ price on any deal and leaving supporters feeling ‘alienated and disrespected’.
The chairman met with representatives of supporter groups in the boardroom at the Stadium of Light on Thursday, July 16.
The last two seasons have seen Sunderland finish in their lowest ever league positions and the decision to curtail the season robbed the Black Cats of a chance of at least making the play-offs.
Donald has been under increasing pressure from fans to find a new owner who can take the club forward as it prepares for a third consecutive season in League One.
At the meeting, he hit out at the ‘attitude’ of some fans, claiming it was putting off investors and making a sale harder.
Mr Donald’s comments provoked an angry reaction from fans group Wise Men say, which issued a statement condemning his remarks.
"Fans were overwhelmingly positive about the prospect of FPP taking over and couldn't have been more welcoming, so to now be blamed for Donald's inability to sell the club appears entirely unfair on supporters who have remained loyal through thin and thinner for years now,” it said.
"The sale of the club proving difficult has nothing to do with supporter criticism and everything to do with the ludicrous asking price placed on a depreciating asset.
"Donald should move on from the football club as quickly as possible, and in the process he should sell the club for a fair price to a credible buyer who has the club's best interests firmly at heart. Why not sell the club tomorrow for the amount he has put in to date? It doesn't make sense.
"Donald's approach to selling seems to be stalling any chance we as a club, and fans, have of moving forward.
The statement was also highly critical of the amount Mr Donald is seeking for any sale: "The price tag is clearly laughable. It would have been were we not in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, but the fact we are just shows the ridiculousness of what we are dealing with here,” it said.
"We don't know how much he actually bought the club for. He has named a price of £37.6million for a club about to spend its third consecutive season in League One, with dwindling income, high fixed costs and most of its best academy prospects sold.
"What's more, £37.6million is £600,000 more than the £37million the club cost Madrox, as shown in their publicly filed accounts, which is a little ironic given Donald's claim others should check their facts.
"We remain in the third tier due to their inability to deliver, so why should they make a profit on our club? They aren't entitled to it.
The group urged Mr Donald to sell up so the club can begin rebuilding as soon as possible.
"We've had the two worst finishes in our history under his stewardship. To say we're in a better place is delusional and would be hilarious if those in charge didn't actually appear to believe it,” it said
"It's clear the relationship between Donald and supporters has deteriorated beyond the point of repair. His attitude in the meeting with fan groups appears to suggest he is drawing battle lines and leveling blame rather than actually attempting to achieve anything beneficial moving forward.
"Instead of feeling galvanising for a push towards something positive and constructive, many fans, ourselves included, will now feel alienated and disrespected. It is a sorry state of affairs, and Donald should take his leave and allow us all to move on with our lives."
But Michael Ganley accused Mr Donald of trying to make a scapegoat of the very people who had welcomed his arrival on Wearside two years ago so passionately: "He has gone against the people who have supported him and trusted him from day one,” said Michael. “The fans are the ones who have tried to support him and guide him.
"For him to comment in the way he has is very, very unprofessional. It smells to me that it has been premeditated to get the fans up in arms to make it easier for him to say ‘I will just make £25million’ and walk away.”
It was wrong to blame supporters for the disappointments of the last two seasons: “It is not acceptable that he can come out with these comments," said Michael.
"Business is a risk and it is no use blaming other people if your business has not turned out the way you want.
“A football club is not a business, as such – it is all about being a community with the fans and our fans are unlike any other fans in the world. I have said that for years and years.
"It is very sad. The man needs to take a good look at himself.”