Sunderland AFC have explained their decision to play a cup match against a Hartlepool non-league team behind closed doors.
Hartlepool FC were thrilled after being paired with the Black Cats’ Under-23s side in the Durham Challenge Cup.
The Wearside League club was set to be entitled to 50 per cent of the profits from gate receipts at the game. However, due to logistical concerns, the match was played in front of no paying spectators at the Hetton Centre on Wednesday.
A Sunderland AFC spokesman said: “Sunderland AFC and Hartlepool FC entered into discussions to find a suitable date and kick-off time for the fixture which suited both clubs.
“Due to Hartlepool’s part-time status, it was decided that the fixture would have to take place after the hours of daylight and, therefore, at a floodlit venue.
“This decision was reached only a few days before the fixture.
SAFC investigated the possibility of opening the game to the public but due to an event at the Hetton Centre, it was decided that this would not be publicly responsibleSunderland AFC
“SAFC investigated the possibility of opening the game to the public but due to an event at the Hetton Centre, it was decided that this would not be publicly responsible.
“Hartlepool also accepted that the fixture was unlikely to be profitable, so they would therefore not be missing out on any revenue from gate receipts.
“The game has always been listed as behind-closed-doors on safc.com.”
Sunderland won the match 5-0 to progress to the second round of the competition.
Hartlepool revealed that the Black Cats had offered to switch the game to their Grayfields Enclosure ground, but as there are no floodlights there, it was not possible.
Hartlepool FC secretary Chris Murray said: “It was a bit of a last minute decision for the game to be held at the Hetton Centre, because it was originally going to be at Sunderland’s training ground.
“Logistically, it was going to be too difficult to get everything arranged in time for it to be open to the public.
“It was a bit disappointing that it was behind closed doors, but Sunderland were very accommodating and did offer to stage the game at our ground.
“Unfortunately, as our ground doesn’t have floodlights, it wasn’t possible.
“Sunderland allowed us to have a guest list to ensure family members could watch, which we were very grateful for.
“It was a bit of a shame, but our players still enjoyed the challenge of coming up against professional footballers and it was a good experience for them.”