David Preece: Why I’m in favour of fan protests at Sunderland

Sunderland fans are still turning out in force
Sunderland fans are still turning out in force
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Protests! Huh! What are they good for? Well, as Edwin Starr might say about the prospect of one at the Stadium of Light, it depends on what you’re protesting about, doesn’t it?

If it’s a protest directed towards Ellis Short, I’m not sure what kind of effect it would have, if any at all. We know any reasonable offer for the club would be met with a welcome hand from across the pond and having been generous with his money in the past, I wouldn’t hold it against him for wanting to recoup at least a portion of it.

But here’s the thing. Ellis Short isn’t relying on whatever he can claw back from the sale of the club to top up his pension fund. I’m quite sure his retirement is well catered for. So if that’s the aim of the protests – for him to relinquish his ownership for a far smaller settlement in return – then it is worth doing.

If the protests are for him to put his hand in his pockets to fund recruitment, then it’s too late for that to have any effect until we’re in League 1.

And make no mistake, that eventuality has shifted heavily from the possible to the probable over the course of the last month. if not well before.

If any protest is to carry any weight, it would have to be at a game when Short is in attendance so he could see how desperate things are, if he didn’t already know. I’m guessing he does but what we do need to be cautious of is the situation becoming so toxic between the owner and the fans that he washes his hands of the club completely.

It’s not that I am questioning that Short would not fulfil his moral obligation to take care of the club until someone who wants to carry the torch comes along, but as we have seen at other clubs, supporters going head-to-head against owners who have enough money to be as stubborn as they wish to be, is a recipe for disaster.

In a previous column, I said that the club had a pre-Peter Reid feel about it and nothing says pre-Peter Reid more than fans congregating around the reception area of the club chanting for the removal of the chairman and the board; but if there is anything positive to come out of the protest discussion, it’s that anger is a far more useful emotion than sheer apathy.

Having to stay behind a little longer after games until the disgruntled crowd dispersed, felt like it was just part of being a Sunderland player or fan. Maybe I’m overplaying it, but that’s how it seemed.

Whatever the ultimate goal is though, this is something positive that needs to be harnessed in the right way. Now is the right time because the supporters feel it’s the right time.

That’s why I’m in favour of any potential protest. The indifference and acceptance of performances, results and the mismanagement of the club are as much a cause for the decaying of the club than all of the above but I’m glad now that we’ve reached a tipping point.

The apathy has been just and I couldn’t blame anyone for becoming despondent and staying at home on a Saturday afternoon – but the fact that is all changing can only be positive, whatever the aim.

Hypothetically though, if little can be achieved by directing displeasure at the club’s hierarchy, what can be done?

Well, if the fans really want to have an influence over the course of the last eight home games they have to fill the Stadium of Light and lift the team.

People may scoff at that and ask why they should continue to invest in a club that isn’t returning that investment in the team but this is where the club comes in.

Reduce the prices of all the tickets. Forget about the potential loss of a few quid and think about the impact a fuller stadium could have.

Fill the seats and do away with the need for the ‘fake news’ attendances that are paraded at half-time. I can understand if some fans feel a little cheated if they have already paid more through their season tickets or other avenues, but it’s a bullet they should bite.

Even though the players on the pitch might not be up to making life difficult for visiting teams, everyone in the stands can. I can guarantee that the fans are the subject of most managers’ team talks on the morning of the game.

Start well, get a goal in front, the crowd will turn on the team and they crumble. That’s exactly what they say, so let’s not make that happen.

If we want to get something immediate out of any protests, get the club to give cheap tickets away. Get the stadium filled, use the frustrations to push the players on because if we don’t, opposition will continue to come to the Crematorium of Light and eat and drink as they want, at the expense of our wake.