HAVING read Gustavo Poyet’s open letter to the fans and in the context of the Premier League securing a bumper new TV deal, I thought there was no better time for this lifelong Sunderland fan to write an open letter to the club exploring how the money should be used and the vision for the club going forward.
In my opinion, the first thing the club needs to do is reward the loyalty, passion and commitment of the fans who, despite substantial ticket price inflation over the premier league era, have supported the club home and away in huge numbers.
Ensuring that some of the new TV money is filtered down to the fans in the form of subsidised ticket pricing, especially for away games, would be an important gesture by the club and it can only be a good thing for the team to have a full Stadium of Light and a sold out away following.
To be fair to SAFC this is something that we do better than most with a number of games in recent seasons being discounted by the club, however, this is something I would like to see across the board from next year.
What is crucially important for the club going forward is increased investment in our youth set up, grass routes football in the area and a focus on bringing more players through from our youth teams into the first team.
I for one would become increasingly disillusioned if all the additional TV money was spent on inflated transfer fees, agents fees and player’s wages.
Sunderland is an area that lives and breathes football and has a large catchment area of potential young talent which we need to start utilising more.
Local lads playing for their home town club who know the importance and pride of pulling on the famous red and white jersey is what I want to see a lot more of!
This approach also makes a huge amount of sense as business model, you just need to look at the success of Southampton in terms of bring young home grown players through and the transfer fees they have generated when the best young players inevitably move on to bigger clubs.
Obviously, this is a longer term plan and it will take many years for it to bear fruit but I think that this is where the club should be investing significant sums.
I cannot stress enough the importance of investment in elite coaches, facilities and youth set up; this is the future of the club! We need to look at clubs throughout Europe and the globe in search of best practice and endeavour to emulate, adapt and incorporate these systems into our own set up.
A successful team needs to consist of a balance of youth and experience but in my view we haven’t had enough of the later in recent years.
For this to be successful, there not only needs to be buy in from the Chairman, Chief Executive, Manager and coaching staff but also the fans.
The fans need to have patience and realise that young players will make mistakes and that getting on player’s backs is not productive for either the player or the team’s confidence.
But having said that I think our supporters would like nothing more than to see talented local lads playing for SAFC week in week out.
The third area where I feel the TV money should be used is investment in community schemes.
Again, SAFC do already excel in this area with the Foundation of Light doing a lot of good things and helping a great number of people in the community every year.
However, the additional TV money could help do more and fund schemes on a more ambitious scale.
The club is not just a business or a football team it transcends that and has the ability to bind a community, provide a sense of local pride and improve people’s quality of life.
In the main, Ellis Short has got the majority of things right on and off the pitch and I firmly believe we are in good hands going forward.
However, this is a pivotal period in the club’s history and it is vitally important that the TV money is used wisely to build a secure, long term and sustainable future for this great club.