Sunderland are somehow making themselves appear an even bigger joke off the pitch, as they are on it.
Which takes some doing when you are on schedule to finish bottom of the league two seasons in a row as they tumble down the divisions.
After rumours on the internet and social media, Sunderland banned all cash turnstiles for the last three matches and have insisted their supporters must prove they have bought tickets before, if they then want to get a ticket for any of the remaining games (see below).
The unseen threat they are terrified of, is the spectre of Newcastle fans buying tickets and having a laugh at their expense.
Rather than reds under the bed, it is a fear of black and whites filling some of the 30,000+ empty pink seats, that is the issue for Sunderland.
Sky Sports are their main media partner in all this, having claimed last week that a ‘significant’ number of Newcastle fans were prevented from getting into Sunderland’s home game against Norwich last Tuesday night, some of the NUFC fans allegedly already having tickets for the away end, whilst others supposedly tried to buy on the night from the Sunderland ticket office.
Sky Sports saying that police forced them to disperse.
Now the latest on this Wednesday morning, sees another Sky Sports exclusive.
This time they report that Sunderland have cancelled a number of tickets in the Wolves away end after they found out they had fallen ‘into the hands of Newcastle supporters’.
Sky Sports (Keith Downie) – 18 April 2018:
“Sunderland have cancelled a number of tickets in the away end for their final game of the season against Wolves.
“After information suggested they had fallen into the hands of Newcastle supporters.”
This is really stretching the imagination though…surely?
Wolves have already won the title and the last weekend of the season their fans will be desperate for a ticket (and a weekend staying in Newcastle…).
How on earth would Sunderland and/or Sky Sports know some tickets were now in the possession of Newcastle fans?
I have just gone on the official Wolves ticket section on the club’s website and they have an initial allocation of 2,589 tickets and you still need 1,080 Wolves loyalty points to even try and buy a ticket!
So we are supposed to believe either hardcore Wolves fans are buying tickets and then happily giving/selling them to Newcastle supporters, or Newcastle fans are offering fortunes for the tickets to make it a no-brainer to take the money.
This is even before we get to how Sky/Sunderland would then find out which ticket(s) had been passed on…
Official Wolves website – Ticket Section – 18 April 2018:
‘6 May 2018 – Sunderland v Wolves
Initial Allocation: 2,589
Tickets to supporters with 1,080 loyalty points on sale from 10am Monday 16 April’
The Mag – Wednesday 12 April 2018:
On Tuesday, we brought you the news that Sunderland had taken drastic action to prevent Newcastle fans gaining entry to their remaining three home games.
Starting with Norwich on Tuesday night, Sunderland would no longer be operating cash turnstiles.
Meanwhile, they also announced that Sunderland fans could only now buy tickets if they could prove they were a fan, which would basically mean they had to show they had a previous purchase history of buying tickets.
The action was sparked by rumours of Newcastle fans planning ‘another Gillingham’, turning up in numbers to celebrate the demise of their local ‘rivals’.
The rumours had started first of all about the very last game of the season, with Sunderland set to play champions-elect Wolves.
That made some sense as Newcastle don’t have a game that day and Sunderland would surely be down by then, or at the very least would/could be relegated on that final day.
Similarly, further rumours extended to their third last game of the season, Burton at home. Similar scenario, a weekend game and no match for Newcastle, with every chance of the Mackems going down, or already down.
However, the Norwich game was midweek, Man City v Liverpool on TV, and Sunderland couldn’t be relegated. It didn’t really make sense.
However, on Thursday afternoon, Sky Sports are now reporting that ‘A significant number of Newcastle fans were stopped from entering the ‘Stadium of Light’ on Tuesday night.
They say their information is that Newcastle fans were stopped from buying tickets at Sunderland’s ticket office.
With Police then ordering them to disperse.
Sky Sports also claiming that ‘a number of known Newcastle fans’ had already bought tickets for the Norwich end’ and were also prevented entering the stadium.
All sounds a bit dubious to me but there you go.
I could have understand however many Newcastle fans going to either of those final two Sunderland home games but for this Norwich one, I find it hard to believe.
Would love to know as well what equals ‘a significant number’?
Keith Downie of Sky Sports:
“A significant number of Newcastle fans were stopped from entering The Stadium of Light at the club ticket office on Tuesday night.
“We understand Police issued a number of ‘orders to leave’ to individuals prior to kick off.
“We understand Sunderland also worked with Norwich to stop a number of known Newcastle fans entering the away end with pre-bought tickets on Tuesday night.”
The Mag – Tuesday 10 April 2018:
At a time when Sunderland surely need every bit of support they can possibly get, they have taken a drastic move to prevent Newcastle fans getting into the Stadium of Light – but which also significantly hinders their own supporters.
The Mackems have five games remaining and play Norwich tonight.
If Sunderland lost and Bolton and Birmingham win, then the Wearsiders would effectively be relegated, as they’d be left 10 points from safety and only four games remaining.
Crowds at the Stadium of Light have plummeted with a drop from forty thousand in the Premier League, to only around fifteen thousand in the ground as fans desert their club.
Sunderland have desperately tried to attract any additional support by charging as little as £1 per ticket for Under 16s, as well as having cash turnstiles available every match.
To top it off, tonight sees their vital home game clash with a potentially epic Champions League rematch of Man City v Liverpool on TV, so even harder to attract floating voters/fans to tonight’s game at the Stadium of Light.
They have taken the shock move of closing all the cash turnstiles, making all fans without season tickets having to queue at the ticket office (which on a night game is always a bigger pain with more people arriving late after work etc) AND even Sunderland fans can only buy tickets if they can prove they have been to previous matches.
Their club insisting on fans having a previous purchase history.
So can you imagine the scenario…over 30,000 empty pink seats inside the stadium and an unsuspecting Sunderland fan turns up with his kids after deciding to give the club their backing, then gets turned away because they can’t prove they are Sunderland fans!
This clearly is in response to recent claims that Newcastle fans were looking to go to the Stadium of Light for the final Sunderland home match against Wolves, in an attempt to repeat the Gillingham match of 1987. Up to 2,000 Newcastle fans went to Roker Park to see Sunderland fall into the third tier, with fans allowed to pay in on the day.
So Sunderland getting in early and taking these drastic steps.
I couldn’t have imagined any Newcastle fans bothering to go down to Sunderland tonight for a laugh but they have only two home games left after this one.
On Sunday 6 May the Mackems are home to Wolves, Newcastle having no game that day as it is Watford away on the Saturday.
Whilst the other Sunderland home game is Burton on Saturday 21 April, Newcastle away at Everton on the Monday night.
Sunderland fans have reacted on their main Ready To Go message board, clearly believing that this move is purely to do with the ‘threat’ of Newcastle supporters wanting to donate cash to their relegation fund, by paying to get into matches.
‘Is this to stop mags?’
‘I’d imagine it is.’
‘Possibly don’t want any cash on the premises for when we go into liquidation later this week.’
‘Queues were really bad at ticket office last time, imagine with no turnstiles on it’ll be worse so allow plenty of time!’
‘This is definitely mag related.’
Sunderland Official Statement:
‘Sunderland AFC face Norwich City in the Sky Bet Championship on Tuesday evening, 7.45pm kick-off, with no cash turnstiles open to home or away supporters.
The Stadium of Light ticket office will be open from 9am until kick-off for on the day sales to home fans only, but those purchasing tickets must have a purchase history from before the Sheffield Wednesday game.
Supporters are asked to arrive as early as possible to ensure they are no delays in purchasing tickets and accessing the stadium.’