A BAR owner’s decision not to screen SAFC home games at his venues so that more fans will visit the Stadium of Light has received a mixed reaction from fans.
Wylam Leisure managing director Tony Griffiths and business partner Eric Robson yesterday said they will no longer show Black Cats home matches at their city establishments.
Mr Griffiths’ move comes after Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn’s attack on stay-away fans last month.
The Glass Spider chief believes an increase in the number of fans attending games would benefit the city in the long-term.
Sunderland have an average attendance of just over 39,000 this season, well short of the stadium’s 48,000 capacity, meaning that it is around 80 per cent full on most matchdays.
Editor of A Love Supreme fanzine, Martyn McFadden, said: “It’s quite a generous gesture by him.
“He is under no obligation to do this.
“Niall Quinn obviously has a bee in his bonnet about it, but I would like to see everyone else follow suit now.
“I still think our crowds are pretty good and the Liverpool game (on March 20) I understand will be sold out.”
Mr McFadden added that the chairman’s comments had understandably divided Sunderland fans and provoked an interesting debate on the subject.
He added: “I would love to see a sellout Stadium of Light every week but it’s up the working man how to spend his money.”
Season ticket holder Kevin Moeliker argued: “I don’t think more pubs will follow suit because it’s a good money-maker for them.
“If they put the games on they know they can attract fans in.”
James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: “I think the pub owners who haven’t done this (stopped showing the home games) are maybe taking a short-term view.
“The club are doing well at the moment and we haven’t had a season like this for a long time.
“I would applaud Tony Griffiths. As someone with the amount of business that he has in the city, this makes a big difference and I hope others follow suit.
“The whole city does better when the football club is doing well and we all have to play our part.”
But Michael Brunskill, spokesman for the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), said that incentives need to be increased for more fans to attend games.
He said: “The Football Supporters’ Federation would, of course, prefer to see more fans at games rather than sitting in pubs but football clubs must wake up and learn lessons from the music and film industry – the genie is well and truly out of the bottle when it comes to watching games broadcast via foreign TV feeds or the internet.
“Once content is freely available in digital form, almost nothing can stop it being shared.
“If even Sunderland, with some of the cheapest tickets in the top-flight, are seeing gates fall, then there’s obviously wider issues at play.
“What clubs have to do to get more people through the gates is listen to what the fans are saying and that means, more than anything, dropping ticket prices.
“Anything else is just skirting the issue.”