Phil Smith: No wonder so many have had enough as latest Sunderland refund plans leave season card holders baffled and angry

Barely a week has passed since Sunderland apologised to their season card holders.

Monday, 29th June 2020, 3:59 pm

The club, via CEO Jim Rodwell, acknowledged that they had misjudged their policy on season card refunds and renewals for next season.

It was said that a meeting with key supporter groups had led to a greater understanding of the issues and concerns many felt.

As such, there was a u-turn, which meant that season card holders would no longer be financially penalised for their loyalty, their desire to support the club or their bond to the seat and card many have held for decades.

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Sunderland's season card holders have been processing the club's latest update

Sunderland's refund process for games lost as a result of the curtailment of the 2019/20 campaign, and it is season card holders who are last in the queue.

They will have to wait until the end of August at the earliest for repayment, while those with individual match tickets could see their refund processed next month.

Those who have supported the club by staying on the direct debit renewal scheme for next season will see their first payment processed this week, and so they will pay for games yet to be played potentially two months before being refunded for those already lost.

With the second direct debit payment set to be processed on September 1st, it is perfectly feasible that refunds may not be back with supporters until after two new payments have been made.

It has left season card holders once again baffled, hurt and feeling that their loyalty is being taken for granted.

It's an approach that further underlines why the connection between the Madrox regime and supporters has been irreversibly severed.

Not only is it wrong; it's also an approach that hurts the club in the long-term.

Season card holders have never been more important to football clubs and it is worth noting, too, that they have been vital in powering the Madrox regime so far by staying loyal and putting their hand in their pocked over and over again.

If the issue is one of cashflow, then greater honesty from the outset may well have yielded a very different response from fans.

Clubs throughout the pyramid are facing a deeply uncertain period as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, and it is leading to difficult conversations with the supporters who have never been more important.

As a result, most from the outset offered a series of options that could strike a balance in difficult circumstances.

Refunds for those who need them and are due them, and ways to support the club for those who wanted and felt they were in a position to do so.

Many have found ways to reward those who have taken that option.

It took Sunderland far too long and far too many muddled attempts to reach that point, and today represented another step backwards.

If the current crisis is indeed having a major impact on the club's finances, then there will be many in the same boat and an honest discussion is the way forward.

Or if the ownership are in a position where the financial backing of fans is more important than ever, then that too should have been clear from the off.

There will then, too, be a discussion regarding the outstanding balance still owed to the football club following the use of parachute payments to fund the purchase from Ellis Short.

Sunderland supporters, as they have proven time and time again, will always back their club.

After their arrival on Wearside, Madrox vowed engagement, communication, transparency, and to always put those supporters first.

The ongoing handling of the season card issue has stood entirely at odds with this, and alienated many of their most important supporters.

No wonder so many have had enough.

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