Sunderland fan group urges MPs to back calls for financial help for clubs and for supporters to return when safe

Sunderland fan group Red and White Army has written to MPs urging them to back calls for financial support for football clubs in the EFL and a return of supporters to grounds – as soon as it is safe.

Friday, 9th October 2020, 4:20 pm

It was agreed at a recent meeting of RAWA to back calls from the Football Supporters’ Association for more help for clubs in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the loss of revenue clubs are having to deal with as games are played behind-closed-doors.

A letter has now been sent to local MPs in Sunderland and the surrounding areas.

RAWA stress public health always comes first but add the impact of Covid-19 is now ‘threatening the very existence of many football clubs’ and have called for more financial support for clubs.

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They also call for Sunderland fans to be allowed back into the Stadium of Light as soon as it is safe to do so.

They add: ‘Action must be taken to prevent losing century old institutions. This is about much more than watching a game of football. Clubs are so often the heart of a community and local economy.’

RAWA are urging local MPs to write to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to request further guidance on when fans could be allowed to return and to put further pressure on the Government to provide more financial support to EFL clubs.

Here is the letter in full:

‘Dear MP,

The Red and White Army (RAWA) are an independent, democratically structured, Sunderland football supporters’ group.

We aim to represent Sunderland fans through structured dialogue with SAFC and we affiliate to the Football Supporters’ Association, the national body for football fans. We are currently in the process of converting to a Community Benefit Society or Supporters’ Trust.

We are writing to you to express some of the concerns and fears that football supporters throughout the country have about the future of their clubs.

We fully accept that public health comes first, and we must comply with any localised measures to stop the spread of the virus.

However, the impact of Covid in the English Football League (EFL) and lower leagues is now threatening the very existence of many football clubs. These are institutions that have been the hub of their communities for generations and they could disappear in the coming months.

A huge amount of work has gone into preparing stadiums for the return of supporters, albeit at a reduced capacity. On a national level the Sports Ground Safety Authority have provided detailed guidance, considering all government advice.

At a local level, representatives of RAWA have attended meetings with the club and witnessed first-hand the tireless, painstaking work that dedicated staff have undertaken to make the Stadium of Light as safe a place as possible to watch football.

Football clubs have been held to higher standards than any other in preparation for what would be hugely reduced capacities in an open-air venue.

And whilst local lockdown rules supersede any immediate return of fans at the Stadium of Light we would like it to be known that many supporters have a real desire to get back to supporting their club as soon as it is safe to do so.

We hope you will support the return of fans to the SoL as soon as we move out of local restrictions.

We would like to place on the record our backing of The Football Supporters’ Association’s call for financial support from government for EFL clubs to help ease the loss of matchday revenue.

Action must be taken to prevent losing century old institutions. This is about much more than watching a game of football. Clubs are so often the heart of a community and local economy.

What are we asking of you?

We ask that you write to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport;

1. Requesting clear guidance on what local and / or national conditions will allow the safe return of fans to football league grounds. For example, is there a target rate of infection per 100,000 or a target R rate?

2. Supporting Government financial assistance for EFL clubs.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Hird

Chairman, Red and White Army.’

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