Jim Rodwell addresses fan concerns on Sunderland's finances and gives update on season card sales
Jim Rodwell says Stewart Donald remains committed to funding Sunderland and insists there is no financial threat to the club's future.
Supporters have raised concerns about the club's cashflow status in light of a series of recent decsions.
Furloughed staff at the club have been told that their salaries will no longer be topped up by the full amount, while season card holders were told earlier this week that their refunds for games missed as a result of the curtailment of the 2019/20 campaign would not be processed until the end of August.
Many fans have also expressed reservations about the club's viability in the long-term under Madrox.
Those concerns were crystallised on Wednesday afternoon, when the wider game was rocked by the news that Championship side Wigan Athletic had been put into administration.
Rodwell admitted that the refund process was partly due to managing the club's cash commitments and apologised for the delay, but said he could 'absolutely' and '100%' reassure supporters that there was no threat to the club's future.
"Wigan is a cautionary tale, that is what can happen and they will not be the last," he said.
"We are simply not in that position.
"It’s a difficult period, it’s going to be a bumpy ride and we have got to be mindful of the cash at our disposal.
"I think Wigan will be one of several, that’s my feeling.
"But we are not one.
"The chairman is honouring all his obligations, but we are nevertheless in a very difficult situation."
Rodwell also revealed that over 10,000 supporters have now renewed their season cards for the 2020/21 campaign, whenever that begins.
Those on the direct debit scheme had their first payments taken today, which Rodwell said was an 'astonishing commitment'.
Given the cuts to staff salaries and the continued support from fans, The Echo asked if there had been discussions regarding a further injection of cash from Madrox.
Madrox used parachute payments to fund their purchase of Sunderland from Ellis Short, and sparked concerns amongst supporters when it was revealed that the legal obligation to repay the funds had been removed.
In May, Madrox told the Echo that they had paid the balance down to a total around of £11.5 million.
Rodwell said the repayment was happening 'quicker' as a result of the current climate and that the owners were 'willingly' accepting their obligations to do so.
"The money that Madrox have committed to put back into the football club is getting put back in quicker," Rodwell said.
"That is why, alongside the funds from season cards, I have such confidence in saying that this is not a Wigan-esque situation.
"The furlough scheme has helped us to keep our cost base down, and the combination of season card sales and shareholder injections is what is helping us.
"The owners understand their obligations and are doing it willingly."
Rodwell said the club were 'very thankful' to the thousands of supporters who renewed their season cards.
Sunderland have previously said that they will get priority if, as seems almost certain, grounds are operating with reduced capacities when the new season begins.
"We’ve now sold just north of 10,000 season cards and a massive thankyou to all those supporters who have been able to and have decided to stick with us," Rodwell said.
"In the current climate, it’s an astonishing commitment and we’re very thankful for it."
The season card process has been fraught, with Rodwell apologising a fortnight ago for the club's initial policy.
Sunderland had told supporters that if they renew, they would be entitield to a streaming pass in lieu of a refund if any games were to be played behind closed doors.
The club performed a u-turn on that decision, saying that full refunds would be offered to anyone who renews and cannot watch a game at the ground.
However, many season card holders were again left dismayed when the club said that the refunds for last season would be refunded in three phases.
Tickets for individual home games will be refunded first, followed by tickets for individual away games.
Season card holders will be last, meaning that it could be early September until they are repaid.
Rodwell said he 'accepted and apologised' that this would not be as quickly as supporers would want.
"We are in the midst of a pandemic and we are very thankful to people for sticking with us," he said.
"It is difficult. We’ve had no significant income since March and we don’t know when we will have again.
"We are doing our best to repay people as quickly as we can.
"I accept and I apologise that it isn’t as quickly as people would like.
"We are trying to do it in as fair and equitable a way as possible but I accept not everyone is going to be satisfied with that."
When asked by The Echo about the many who have opted not to renew so far and how the club would reflect on that, Rodwell said:"We’re constantly reflecting.
"I’m incredibly grateful to those who have stuck with us and I also understand those who have not bought them at the moment."
Rodwell had previously vowed to work with fan groups to rebuild trust and said on Wednesday that he hopes more will return when there is certainty over the new season and an improvement in the situation across the country.