Everything Stewart Donald told Sunderland fans about FPP, club structure & Phil Parkinson at key meeting

The Red & White Army have released the minutes from their recent meeting with club chairman Stewart Donald and Director Neil Fox.

Thursday, 12th December 2019, 9:57 am
Updated Thursday, 12th December 2019, 9:58 am

A number of topics were addressed, including the recent deal with the FPP group and the current crisis on the pitch.

A short statement at the beggining of the minutes also addressed the recent controversy surrounding the first meeting between the group and the club.

The minutes have not yet been agreed for that meeting, which was understood to be attended by Charlie Methven.

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Sunderland chairman Stewart Donald
Sunderland chairman Stewart Donald

That statement reads: “Following a supporters collective meeting on November 21, the chairman (who was not present at this meeting) was unhappy with some of the content and answers contained within the draft minutes, which he felt did not reflect the club’s viewpoint.

“Taking appropriate action, the chairman then asked to reconvene the meeting (on December 04), where he answered all of the queries from the first meeting and discussed a number of additional topics with the fans groups representatives who were present.

“The full content of the meeting is laid out within the minutes.”

The full minutes can be read here, but here’s an overview of what was addressed….

ON FPP

Stewart Donald re-iterated his stance that the deal struck with the FPP group is win-win for supporters, with the only risk being attached to the current owners.

He did, however, discuss the background of the deal in a little detail, suggesting that he believed that the high-profile nature of being Sunderland owners may have been a reason why the group pursued this option, rather than a full takeover.

He also claimed there were additional benefits for the club past the £9 million injected, and stressed that the group were ‘honourable’ and ‘keen on the development of the club’.

Given that the loan is secured against the club assets, the group’s silence has been a concern for Sunderland fans concerned what their intentions woud be in the event that they took control.

The minutes read: “The intention was always to keep the current off-pitch management team at the helm, but the investors opted for loan agreement instead. They liked the City and the people but are private people. The investors picked up on the excitement of the fan base about their proposed involvement, viewing it as a business opportunity which they wanted to succeed but which would also be an incredibly high-profile investment for them. This loan agreement is currently the best option for the football club, over and above any other proposed investment opportunities.

“SD identified 3 key factors that helped secure the investment: they were impressed with what was already being done, they could see the club’s potential and they liked the individuals involved. It was the best option for the club, and not for SD personally, as this agreement has many secondary benefits associated with it: analytics, medical science, sponsorship and concert opportunities.”

Donald went on to tell supporters that he believed the club ultimately to be worth in the region of £30-50 million, and claimed that a return to the Premier League in the next five years is realistic if the investment is done right.Neil Fox added that the investment has not yet been used, with the recent expansion of the scouting network and capital expenditure projects funded by the current owners.

ON JANUARY

Donald insisted there was ‘clear synergy’ at the club ahead of the January window.

“SD appointed Phil Parkinson (PP) because he believes he is the right man for the job, he knows the league, is well connected and has a lot of experience; we are more ahead of the game, in terms of preparation for the January transfer window, than we were last year, there is a clear synergy at the club. There will be signings for the future.”

Elsewhere, he suggested that the club will be looking at the loan market for additions but are pepared to invest in the right player.

“SD explained loan deals are easier to do as you know which players available, permanent deals must be done more carefully, identifying the correct player and looking at the wider social / practical implications of signing them.”

Donald also said that Tony Coton was doing a ‘great job’ ahead of the window, and said the recent expansion of the scouting network would help the club’s much-criticised recruitment improve in the long-term.

ON CLUB STRUCTURE

The departure of Tony Davison and Charlie Methven have raised serious concerns about the club’s structure and the day-to-day leadersip on Wearside with regards to the football side of the club.

Many have called for a replacement to managing to be appointed, or even a chief executive.

Though this meeting was held two days before Methven’s resignation was confirmed, Donald said in his statement he had known for some time that Methven would be leaving.

Despite that, he appeared to suggest there would be no further appointments to the board or the club’s senior management structure.

The minutes read: “NF confirmed Tony Davison’s departure was amicable and a result of family considerations. SAFC are in a strong place with a lean team in place to run the club. The owners are very hands on.

“SD made a lot of changes after he bought the club, immediately cutting unnecessary costs. Getting to Wembley twice helped financially but streamlining is still required. The Stadium of Light is potentially a huge source of income but requires capital expenditure improvements as it is 20-year-old.”

Juan Sartori, who is claimed to be stepping up his involvement despite recently being elected as a senator in Uruguay, was not mentioned.

The club agreed to produce chart outlining the organisational structure behind the scenes for supporters.

ON SUNDERLAND LADIES

After an outstanding start to the campaign, Sunderland are in with a very strong chance of promotion.

They sit six points clear at the top of the Women’s National Northern Division, though second-placed Burnley have a game in hand.

However, even if they were to win the league, their place in the Championship would need to be approved by the FA, with an application submitted to prove the club has the administrative and financial means to run a side at that level.

Stewart Donald told supporters the ladies would get that support, and that he was ‘determined’ to see promotion secured.

The minutes read: “The club is supporting their bid for promotion as necessary, but the Ladies’ team need more fans to support them, to make it a viable business option. SAFC are determined to get the ladies promoted, SD wants to get them on the website and find ways to increase interest.”

MESSAGE TO SUPPORTERS & PHIL PARKINSON

The meeting was held before Sunderland’s situation worsened with a woeful 1-0 defeat to Gillingham.

Pressure is rising on PHil Parkinson, who Donald backed in the meeting.

He was asked by if he had a message for supporters concerned with the direction of the club, currently at a ‘historic, all-time low’.

The minutes read: “SD replied all off-pitch developments take time, but if the football is not good, it reflects on all other decisions. A positive to take, SD says, is that we did not cut and run, we recruited top people, invested instructure and personnel. He recognised that changing the manager was a gamble, but PP has a proven track record, and SD is putting what the manager needs around him, it might take longer than he would like but the club needs time to get there. The recruitment team is the correct one and we can bring in the right players.

“SD continued saying everything behind the scenes is good, the owner didn't cut and run in the summer, the club has new investors, there is a strong recruitment team now in place and there have been overdue improvements to the magnificent facility, that is the Stadium of Light.”

They went on to read: “SD believes in the process but knows there is more work to be done. He asks fans to stick with us, be positive with us and to give us and the manager time. Sunderland is a long-term project, the football club can be great, the manager has proven success at this level, SD is rolling up his sleeves and working to get this right.

“If he is making the wrong decisions, even with the best of intentions, he knows he will not be around for long. He said we need time to get it right, but we must do it relatively quickly.”

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