The Black Cats welcome Coventry City to Wearside on Sunday for what will be the club’s first game back in the second flight of English football after an absence of four seasons.
But some supporters had to queue at the ticket office this morning to secure alternative seats after promised season cards failed to arrive – while others lined up outside the stadium shop which has been closed all week, despite the launch of the new away strip just a week ago.
'Unacceptable' HMO refused for Sunderland neighbourhood where there is already too much shared housing
Caught hook, line and sinker: Sunderland pair in court after social media posts brag about illegal salmon and sea trout fishing on River Wear
The 12 Sunderland streets with most disorder and anti-social behaviour in June
Sunderland AFC reveal new Stadium of Light ticket office and club shop opening hours after fan complaints
UPDATE: Man released under investigation after collision leaves 13-year-old boy cyclist in critical condition
A small number of supporters were queuing to purchase tickets but many in the line were season card holders, including some unhappy over the lack of response when they attempted to contact the club about ticketing issues.
Adult season cards at the Stadium of Light cost a minimum of £390, with Under-16s able to secure their seat from £48 and over-65s from £270, while Under-18 and Under-22 season card prices start from £96 and £165.
Lifelong fan Gordon Stevenson, 69, had travelled from South Shields after his season card was delayed: “I emailed them on July 19 and they said they would sort it within three days,” he said.
"It is now ten days later and I have had to come down myself – you can’t speak to anybody on the phone and they are not answering their emails.”
Pamela Taylor was making her second visit to the ticket office: “I came here yesterday but did not get seen.” she said.
Pamela, 51, from Easington Lane, said she had followed the advice the club gave to supporters whose season cards did not arrive – but had received no response.
"They have said to send an email but I have emailed them and not had anything back from them – they are not responding to anything,” she said.
Pamela was waiting to pick up an accessibility ticket because she is a match companion to an autistic friend: “I did not want to bring her down because she does not like standing in queues,” she said.
Michelle Barrass, from Tunstall, said she had ordered five season cards but just one had actually turned up.
Michelle, 40, who is mum to Holly, 13, and ten-year-old Niall, said: “It is the first time I’ve had a season card in about 24 years, but we thought it was time to introduce the children to it.
"We have ordered five – three adults and two children – and we have received one adult ticket.
"I have emailed – because that was what we were told to do – and had no response to calls.
"I finally got a reply saying it would be another three working days – which is not much help if the game is on Sunday.”
Thirty-four-year-old Leanne Alderson had travelled down from Pennywell with ten-year-old Mason, four-year-old Blake and seven-week-old Olivia to secure new away tops for Blake and partner Kyle Bevans.
She was taken aback at having to wait in line and criticised club bosses for not opening the shop earlier.
"I didn’t know we would have to queue,” she said. “I think it is a bit silly – if they had been open all week, then we would not be having to queue now.”
The club declined to comment when contacted by the Echo, instead referring us advice for fans published on its website ahead of Sunday’s match, where they urged all fans – even if they have received their tickets – to get to the stadium in plenty of time.
“Sunderland AFC supporters attending Sunday’s Sky Bet Championship opener are advised to arrive at the Stadium of Light as early as possible,” it said online.
"Supporters that have purchased a new season card, or who have moved seats for the new campaign, are advised that all new season cards have now been dispatched.
“If your new season card has not arrived, please visit the ticket office and you will be issued with a match ticket for Sunday’s game.”
The ticket office will be open between 10 and 5pm tomorrow, Saturday, July 30, and from 9am until kick-off on Sunday.
Fans are also being warned that enhanced security will be in operation: “The FA, Premier League and EFL are together introducing new measures and stronger sanctions across the game to tackle the increased anti-social and criminal behaviours recently seen within football grounds and underline the importance of a safe matchday environment.
“The new set of actions will target activity such as entering the pitch without permission, carrying or using smoke bombs or pyrotechnics and throwing objects - as well as drug use and discriminatory behaviour.”