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Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn blasts stay away fans

Mon 14th Feb 2011 | Money & Finance

Sunderland AFC chairman, Niall Quinn described fans who watched live games in pubs using foreign decoders as ‘despicable’.

Quinn spoke of his disappointment at below expected attendances at the Stadium of Light despite his team’s success in the Premier League this season.

“The number of fans not coming to the games, the number of fans who are choosing instead to watch it in the pubs, is having a massive effect on our attendances,” he told the Sunderland Echo newspaper.

Quinn believes that fans are staying away from games to watch them in the city’s pubs which show them using foreign decoders. The Premier League is in a long running legal battle over the practice, but were dealt a blow when the Advocate General ruled that stopping the use of foreign decoders contravene European Law.

But Quinn feels strongly that it is having a negative impact on the clubs ability to compete at the highest level.

Defending his branding of the fans he described as despicable, Quinn said he was trying to ignite the debate over the rights and wrongs of fans staying away from the Stadium of Light to get their match-day fix in the pubs.

“It’s a strong word and I thought long and hard about using it. It’s a very emotive word and I used it to get a response; to get people talking,” he told the Echo

“If I’m asked to backtrack a little, then I’m happy to do that – I don’t particularly ‘despise’ anyone. 

“But do I regret using the word? No, absolutely not, because if it was a little over the top it doesn’t particularly matter – it has got people talking.

“It has got the issue on the front and back pages of the papers and that’s what we need, we need this debate.

“Last year I raised my concerns about this and it got a bit of a mention and that it tailed away.

“This time, we’ve really got people talking and we need that because we are talking about something which could be fundamental to the future of our club.”

Quinn has warned that if more and more fans choose pub TV rather than going to the Stadium of Light, the falling attendances will eventually force the club to downsize.

 “Ultimately I’ve always had faith in the passion, the support, the size of the Sunderland crowd and it’s that size which can drive the club forwards, he continued.

“If we lose that though, if people get out of the habit of coming to games then we will get to a point where we have to adjust our horizons.

“I can’t keep asking the owner to invest if the supporters are failing to respond or, even worse, becoming fewer and fewer.

“The size of the club is what has seen us rise to the point where we are but if crowds continue to decline then we’ll get to a stage where we have to say ‘OK, what kind of club are we going to be?

“We might just have to settle for being one of the teams whose ambition every year is simply to stay in the division and that’s not what I or the owner want.

“It’s up to the supporters though to keep us going by making a conscious decision to keep on turning up at the Stadium of Light to physically support us if they can.”

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