Sunderland AFC admits customer service has 'fallen well short of the required standard' and is 'completely unacceptable' as fans groups slam ticket office and club shop problems

Sunderland AFC has admitted customer service over ticketing and club shop issues has 'fallen well short of the required standard' and is 'completely unacceptable' as fans’ groups hit out over ongoing problems.

And with the season now more than a fortnight old, complaints are still coming in from aggrieved supporters whose cards have not arrived or did not work for Saturday’s home game with QPR.

Fans queued in baking sun as the Stadium of Light ticket office opened for extra hours last week, but a statement on the clubs’ website today, Monday, August 15, says the office will remain closed until Friday this week due to an outbreak of covid.

The club this evening, Monday, August 15, issued a statement accepting that ‘the level of customer service provided in certain areas has ‘fallen well short of the required standard’ – describing it as ‘completely unacceptable’ and promising to unveil plans to tackle the problems within 48 hours.

Fans’ groups Red and White Army (RAWA) and Spirit of ‘37 waded into the row today, urging management to get to grips with the problem.

RAWA issued a statement saying it and other groups had raised concerns about a decline in customer service, chiefly around the running of the ticket office and the approach to the club shop.

The group had stressed the importance of tackling these issues at a meeting in July at which the club had promised to open the ticket office phone lines from today, Monday, August 15.

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Supporters were forced to stand in the blazing sun

"We hoped this would be the beginning of a series of improvements to get to a point where supporters feel valued and can interact with the club in a way that is befitting of SAFC's stature,” says the statement.

"Sadly, since the meeting, we have been made aware of more and more issues in our emails, on message boards and on social media.

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The group was not blaming staff, it said: “Quite the opposite, we believe they're working hard, under difficult circumstances.

Fans queuing outside the ticket office on Friday

“In the last few meetings with SAFC, we have expressed the view that the business side of the club is very clearly under-resourced. This has to be addressed by those at the very top of the club.

“A plan to provide a proper service to a loyal fanbase should have been in place some time ago. Instead we are now in a position where many supporters feel taken for granted.

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"Excellent season ticket sales have not been matched by the investment and thought needed to service a large, loyal fanbase that want nothing more than to support their club, without all the unnecessary barriers that continue to emerge.

“We urge the ownership and executive staff to treat this with the urgency it requires and communicate how and when improvements will be made to supporters. We also urge that any changes to processes and services are done so by consulting with fans.”

Spirit of ‘37 took to social media to share a letter it has written to club chief operating officer Steve Davison, outlining a litany of complaints including concerns.

It said: “The season ticket office is barely open. When it is, the times aren’t helpful to the majority of fans and the queues are ridiculous.

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"Season tickets have not been delivered despite us being two games into the new season. Seats have been double-booked, meaning fans are being relocated in the Premier Concourse. Away tickets are being delivered two days after the fixture. The discount for season cardholders isn’t being applied at the concessions. Loyalty points aren’t being added for weeks.

"The club shop is in a similar state. Short opening hours, long queues and a shockingly low level of stock is making it impossible for fans to spend their money.”

In a statement, the club said: “We recognise that many supporters have been frustrated by their recent engagement experiences with the club and that the level of customer service provided in certain areas has fallen well short of the required standard.

“This is completely unacceptable and we are working to address these areas of understandable concern as an immediate priority.

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“The club has been in dialogue with various supporters' groups throughout the past 48 hours to ensure their feedback - and that of their members - is considered in full.

“A further update will be published within the next 48 hours, outlining the steps that will be taken to ensure all aforementioned issues are resolved.”