Sunderland’s chief operating officer Steve Davison (SD) recently met with Sunderland supporter groups, including Red and White Army, along with sporting director Kristjaan Speakman (KS) and head of supporter engagement Chris Waters (CW) on May 26 at the Stadium of Light to discuss a range of club issues.
Football finances, the club structure and strategy were all on the agenda for the meeting, which are held regularly with fan groups throughout the course of the season.
Here we take a closer look at some of the main talking points.
Stunning season card sales and concert hopes update
The stunning and loyal support of the Sunderland fanbase has never been in doubt and it has been confirmed that around 21,000 season cards have already been sold for the 2021-22 campaign.
The minutes read: “SD is happy with how the season card campaign went, there are approximately 21,000 purchased for next season.
"Hospitality sales have gone very well. There has been less engagement with younger fans and this is in common with many other clubs and a hangover from the pandemic / streaming views.”
Meanwhile, it is hoped the Stadium of Light will once again host music concerts next summer.
The minutes added: “Concerts are being secured for next year. Promoters are keen to come as the stadium is well suited to hosting concerts. Engagement from across the city is a key component of this.”
In June 2019, the Stadium of Light hosted the Spice Girls, the event hailed a success.
The show was the 20th concert to be staged at the Stadium of Light in 10 years.
Date for new home shirt launch and three areas for investment
The minutes confirmed the new home shirt will be launched ‘at the beginning of July’.
Meanwhile, there was also further detail about some ‘long-term project areas’ for future investment.
The minutes revealed: “There are 3 long-term project areas for future investment, some of which will be in place for the start of the 2021/22 season. There will be electronic points of sale at all kiosks, it will be cashless within the stadium.
"This will significantly reduce queuing times. Redevelopment of the Academy has begun, with internal changes to accommodate new teams. Investment is needed to help teams work together and to update facilities.
"Hospitality will be improved; executive boxes and corporate facilities are being upgraded. SD said there will be further infrastructure and technology investments in the future.”
Football update as squad review complete
There was also some insight into the work that sporting director Kristjaan Speakman has been doing, with a squad review now complete.
The minutes added: “KS believes the team has shown, at times, the type of football we want to play; that a long-term approach must also meet short term goals.
"The club is beginning to build high quality football domains. More off pitch appointments are expected, which will be integrated with elite performance on the pitch.
“The Ladies’ team application for the Championship has been submitted and a decision is pending. The club will underwrite the cost of a functioning women's team and recognise that this will cost more in the Championship.”
On the squad review, the minutes added: “The squad review has been completed. An analytical approach has been used to build a youthful energetic team for the future. Tough decisions have been made for the long-term future of the team.
"A player recruitment model has been developed. It is an evidence-based system that will build a bespoke analytical player recruitment model within 5 years.”
A nod to summer transfer plans and pre-season
Sunderland are facing up to the reality of a fourth season in League One, with plans in place for the summer recruitment drive following the retained list and the release of several senior players.
The minutes added: “A lot of planning has been done on player recruitment, and now divisional status is known, this can move forward. A football philosophy has been identified; industrious players, who make bold decisions and have creativity.
"Post Covid, there could be unknown factors in the transfer market with agents, players and clubs. KS will look at the details and see if things are being delivered.”
Scotland, as previously reported, could be an option for a pre-season trip this summer.
The minutes from the meeting stressed: “Pre-season is being clarified at the moment. Teams are making decisions later than usual as there is still some uncertainty about where teams will be allowed to travel. We will be taking a sensible approach given the current climate.”
Board representation and club finances
On the board’s representation, it was explained that as the main shareholder Kyril Louis-Dreyfus can make some decisions unilaterally, while other decisions require shareholder agreement. Stewart Donald, Charlie Methven and Juan Sartori retain small stakes in the club.
Davison also confirmed Dave Jones and Tom Sloanes remain non-executive board members.
On club finances, the minutes outlined: “As SD had said previously he would not comment on the financial dealings of previous ownership groups. Fortunately, as a UK company the accounts are published annually which enables the public to review the finances of the football club every year.
"It should be remembered that during the last year the football club sustained substantial operational losses as a result of the pandemic which required all the owners to fund the operations of the football club. The extent to which this occurred will be included in the next set of annual accounts.
“SD also confirmed that there was nothing in the share purchase agreement that impacted or altered the financial loans between SAFC and Madrox.
“Since becoming the main shareholder Kyril along with the other current owners are investing in the football club and this has included investment in the infrastructure of Academy as well as the Stadium of Light and in the recruitment of key staff in the Academy and Black Cat House.”
A nod to the future vision
Consultants have been appointed as the club looks to ‘revisit our, culture, identity and purpose’.
The minutes added: “To be successful going forward the club must properly represent the community and build trust.
"The football club has experienced the worst period on the pitch in our history. It is also clear that the city has ambitious plans for redevelopment of the city centre and a vision for a more positive modern outlook.
“With a new ownership and management team it seemed a good time to revisit our, culture, identity and purpose. We want to retain our historic values but also look forward to becoming a modern forward looking football club at the heart of the broader community of the city and beyond.
"We have employed some external consultants to ensure we get an independent and complete view. Over the summer they will be engaging with staff at the club, supporters, businesses, and local institutions to get the full picture.”