January 8 – Sunderland owner Stewart Donald (pictured) has confirmed via a statement on the club website that he will sell the League One club after mounting pressure from supporters over the holiday period demanding he leave. Donald has been in ownership charge for 18-months.
In 2018, Donald acquired Sunderland from American Ellis Short. The end of the Short reign saw the club relegated from the Premier League before dropping to League One, the third tier of English football. Last season they narrowly missed out on promotion back to the Championship via the play offs. It was an emotional year for the club that also saw the release of a Netflix documentary on their plight.
On Boxing Day, Sunderland fan groups voiced their dismay in no uncertain terms after a draw with bottom club Bolton Wanderers. They said that “trust between the fans and the boardroom has eroded” and demanded that Donald “cut his losses”.
The disgruntled fans asked that the owner quit Sunderland and in a statement, Sunderland responded: “Given Stewart Donald’s sincere commitment on his arrival at Sunderland AFC that ‘I won’t outstay my welcome’, the board feels that it has no option but to sell the club.”
“Whilst progress on the pitch has been slower than all associated with Sunderland AFC would have liked, the club has become one of the very few in the EFL to be debt free and break even on an operational basis,” wrote Sunderland in their defense. “With that stable base, the significant investment by FPP, and the team now back in contention for promotion, the board believes that Sunderland continues to head in the right direction.”
In recent months the Sunderland owner has been attempting to find a successor. The club however have a £9 million loan from FPP, a group of American investors with close links to Michael Dell, of Dell computers. This group could end up as the owners. If Donald defaults on repayment the ownership will automatically transfer to FPP next season.
“The current owners would have preferred more time to complete the job and fully implement the vision originally laid out,” said the statement. “However, recent events indicate that is not what some fans wish for – and, as football supporters themselves, the board understands that long-term success cannot be achieved by a disunited club.”
On Saturday, Sunderland defeated Lincoln 3-1 in League One, and now sit in ninth spot, one point off the play off positions and five off an automatic promotion place.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1579972897labto1579972897ofdlr1579972897owedi1579972897sni@o1579972897fni1579972897