Today Sunderland AFC warned staff at both the training ground and the Stadium of Light that redundancies were imminent. Large numbers of staff also received emails offering the option to take voluntary redundancies. How generous of Chief Executive Martin Bain to do so, how kind and thoughtful of a man who reportedly netted a salary somewhere in the region of £630,000 during his time at Glasgow Rangers FC. All this unsavoriness in the week after Sunderland’s underperforming players jetted off for a well-documented trip to New York.
Many Sunderland fans indeed praised Martin Bain’s business sense and caution given the clubs current Premier League position. But for others, his decision smacks of cowardice and defeatism.
Survival is still possible, Sunderland are by no means relegated. With thirteen games to go Sunderland remain bottom but only two points from safety. The decision to prepare for relegation when the club has every chance of survival – especially with the return of key players Pickford, Cattermole and Kirchhoff just around the corner – is a bitter blow to a passionate fan base and community. A community which turned out to the tune of ten-thousand to watch their millionaire heroes in an open training session at the Stadium of Light earlier this week.
Most of that ten-thousand will no doubt very confused as to why the ground level Sunderland AFC worker is set to bite the bullet. It is surely not their fault that Sunderland have only finished in the top ten of the Premier League once in the ten seasons since promotion under Roy Keane. Those responsible for the excellent day-to-day running of the club are to be punished for the inadequacies of Ellis Short. It must also be noted that the culmination of the proposed staff redundancies would make little difference to Sunderland’s debt. The clubs failing business model is a direct consequence of Ellis Short’s decision making, not the clubs ground level staff.
Many will claim that Mr. Short has been badly advised, this is true. However, Short has repeatedly made the same mistakes and continuously allowed himself to be badly advised. Short must shoulder his share of the blame. He allowed the likes of De Fanti to have carte blanche after the big spending of Bruce and O’Neil had failed to deliver results.
Fans have also claimed rather flippantly, that Sunderland should ‘sack the players’ as to allow said redundancies to be cancelled. Although this view is somewhat unrealistic and populist, we cannot blame these fans for their frustration and anger. Any genuine Sunderland fan that seeks to patronise this view does not understand the history of the community they claim to be part of.
We must remember that these workers likely support families. Many will have children or elderly parents to care for and consider. How can it be that they are punished for the mismanagement at board level and under achievement of a playing staff earning tens of thousands a week? If cut backs must be made given the clubs financial situation then they should be made from the top-down. Fewer prawn sandwiches in the director’s box? A little less champagne? Cut backs aimed at reducing unnecessary spending at the top level could save bottom level jobs. This is not ‘loony-left’ or Marxist ideology but common decency towards the men and women that keep our club alive. Why should they be the ones to suffer? The sale of just one player could save the jobs of many staff. However, the real tragedy is this: Ellis Short and Martin Bain will look to offload the club’s best assets in the summer regardless.
The recent actions of the club’s hierarchy have made me for the first time in my life ashamed to be a Sunderland fan making it extremely difficult for fans to buy into the cries of ‘Unity is Strength’ and ‘Keep the Faith’ on social media given recent revelations.