Schoolboy error – Sunderland fans react to black and white redecoration

By Sports Desk January 05, 2024

A Sunderland fanzine has labelled the club’s decision to decorate a Stadium of Light bar in the colours of arch-rivals Newcastle as a “real schoolboy error”.

The bitter north-east rivals meet on Wearside in the FA Cup third round on Saturday and Sunderland fans reacted furiously when images circulated on Thursday of the Black Cats Bar decked out in banners with the messages: “Keep the Black and White Flying High” and “We are United”. Sunderland’s motto “Ha’way the lads” in red was also replaced with the Geordie spelling “Howay” in black.

Sunderland swiftly apologised for “a serious error in judgment” and announced an immediate review, while chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus said he was “disgusted and hurt” by the “inappropriate signs”.

The PA news agency understands Newcastle were invited to submit designs for the bar in December and that they were signed off by a senior member of staff at Sunderland. It is understood the move was intended to lessen the potential for the area to be damaged by rival supporters.

The images added to already-existing tensions among Black Cats fans after season ticket holders were moved from their usual seats in the north stand to accommodate 6,000 travelling Newcastle fans.

Malcolm Dugdale, a contributor to Sunderland fanzine Roker Report, believes the club “haven’t done themselves any favours”.

He told the PA news agency: “For the fans there was the potential that this was really going to cause a hell of a lot of discord, what happened earlier this week and yesterday.

“Now that’s turned around and there’s elements coming out in the media about certain people approved it a number of weeks ago.

“The club have come out, made a couple of statements and backtracked on (the redecoration), which is the right thing to do.

“If we now get a win, I think there’s a chance a certain element of the fanbase will to a certain extent forgive and forget, but if we get spanked then this is prime ammunition for people who might not be fully behind Kyril and the ownership team to really ask some difficult questions.

“Even though it’s kind of an expectation that we might get spanked because of the difference in league positions at the minute, anything other than a really good performance and a close result, I think this could really tear that up.

“The club haven’t done themselves any favours with what’s gone on in the last 48 hours. Real schoolboy errors is the phrase that springs to mind.”

Fanzine A Love Supreme posted on X, formerly Twitter: “At a complete loss for words. What on earth are the club doing?!?!?!

“Let’s hope the players don’t roll over and let the Mags tickle their tummy like the club have.”

Sunderland released a statement on Thursday apologising to fans.

The statement read: “Sunderland AFC acknowledges that a serious error in judgment was made in relation to Black Cats Bar.

“We apologise to our fans for the understandable concern they have fairly voiced in response and this sentiment is shared by the club’s ownership group and board of directors.

“A direct decision has also been taken to return the space to its original state and we once again apologise to our supporters that this was not addressed sooner.”

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