Sunderland CEO hits out at Government stance on return of fans as wait for bailout continues

Jim Rodwell has hit out against the continued exclusion of fans from EFL stadiums this season.

Monday, 26th October 2020, 10:00 am

Sunderland had prepared to bring around 11,000 supporters back to the Stadium of Light in October, but those plans were scuppered when the return was blocked by the Government.

There has been no further udpate since then, despite many indoor venues such as theatres re-opening with limited capacities.

Rodwell was speaking on the Sunderland club podcast, #SAFCUnfiltered, in which he also said that a interested party remained in a period of exclusivity to take over the club.

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Sunderland had planned to bring 11,000 fans back to the Stadium of Light last month

“We have no clarity on it whatsoever,” Rodwell said.

“It's soul destroying for those people who worked so hard to put us in the position to potentially bring fans back.We, as football, are convinced that we can safely have fans in the stadium.

“We had pilot events that went incredibly well, we were ready and able before the rug was pulled from underneath us. I think the hardest thing to accept about that was the lack of rationale.

“You see things that are going on, full theatres, and we're just getting told for no real, apparent reason that we can't have fans. That's soul destroying.

“[Culture secretary] Oliver Dowden was asked a direct question in front of a parliamentary committee about why we can have people in theatres and not a stadium, there was no answer.

“What really disappoints me is that the answers now seem to be quite flippant. Football doesn't seem to be important. The government says it is, but they don't demonstrate it.

“Sooner or later, football clubs will go bust.

“Without a bailout and without fans in the stadiums, that will happen.They will be red wall towns and when the football club goes, the ladies team goes, the academy goes, the foundation goes. The businesses that support the football club suffer.

“There just doesn't seem to be a recognition of that. I just want someone to explain why that is.”

Rodwell said concerns over the future of EFL clubs was the reason for his ‘cautious’ support of the hugely controversial ‘Project Big Picture’ proposals.

Those proposals, now rejected by the Premier League, would have seen funding filtered down the EFL in return for a significant strengthening of the voting rights of the so-called ‘big six’ at the top of the Premier League.

“It was far from perfect but someone has to start somewhere and proposals generally start somewhere and end up in a different place,” he said.

“From what I'd seen, it was well worthy of consideration.

“If we are talking about a redistribution of wealth across the divisions to make football more sustainable, that makes perfect sense.

“If you look at the money EFL clubs are losing on an annual basis, then the model is broken and it doesn't need to be because there is plenty of money within football. It's too lopsided.

“What you need to do is cool the arms race in the Championship, where the goal of reaching the Premier League leads to huge losses. That was one element of it [doing away with parachute payments] I liked the look of.

“Clearly, there were imperfect things in there as well.”

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