After a relatively quiet summer it seems the great Premier League machine is once more waking from a deep sleep, ready to start roaring again. This time, it seems our roar in particular, will be heard across the globe.
Last week, Ellis Short sat with the BBC to give only his second press interview since taking over in 2008 and what he spoke of was a brighter, more financially-sound Sunderland, using our heritageas a solid foundation to build upon, “to now be sponsored by a big initiative [Invest In Africa] who are backed by some serious companies is a good reflection on us and does indicate that we’ve taken a step up.”
These new sponsors, Invest In Africa, seem perfectly fitted to our aspirations, they’re a not-for-profit organisation created to encourage growth and investment on the African continent. Tullow Oil, the founding partners, are Africa’s largest independent oil company, with a net revenue of £2,304.2 million, making this the biggest (and by far the most exciting) commercial sponsorship deal we’ve ever made.
As you can tell, this is a somewhat more inspirational company than the online bingo group, Tombola. Although, Short was quick to sing their praises, too, “Tombola was wonderful for us, they are a local company done very well, who love the club”.
Yes, we must thank Tombola for their service and support, but if we are to ascend to the heights we dream of, then we need a company better matched with our aims on the front of our strip. Invest In Africa are a sign of our intent. They’re a warning to other clubs that we no longer consider ourselves a provincial team happy to sit politely inthe middle of the table.
We know we can quite comfortably enjoy life on this higher plane, after all, we had a very respectable FA Cup run and were the only club to take 4 points from the new Premier League champions, Manchester City. All this, with a previously failing team in the second half of the season. That’s no mean feat.
Our desire to rise above has always been a cornerstone of Sunderland’s core raison d’etre, this being keenly reflected by the colours of our shirt, the crest over our hearts and motto inscribed underneath it: Consectatio Excellentiae, “In pursuit of excellence”.
Obviously all this will take time and much like Roy Hodgson’s plan with England, this isn’t a quick fix job. To me, it seems that that is the way it should be – looking at previous managers and owners (not just at Sunderland) who’ve taken the short cut, have almost always ended up with egg on their face and nothing in their wallets to show for it.
Listening to Ellis Short, his subtle American accent spoke of a deep understanding of how important it is to tread carefully forward. His thoughtful tone is also a reassuring one that he shares with Martin O’Neill on a weekly basis.
With so much turmoil, angst and general fecklessness that most clubs have to deal with when it comes to their chairmen, it seems we have come up trumps with our Quiet American.
We have to remember that football started out as a yard-stick for local pride: if your team was a success, you were the envy of the region, but now the local park has turned into a global field, and should be treated as such.
Some clubs, fans and managers foolishly seem to be fighting against this, but I’m happy that we are not amongst those soon-to-be dinosaurs. This kind of progress is inevitable and once it has started, it’s highly unlikely to stop, so we are right to prepare ourselves inthe best way possible.
We seem to be doing all this just as FIFA’s Financial Fair Play Rules are to be implemented, too. This should set us up nicely as this is an enforced culture other “big-spending” clubs will not be ready or willing to adapt to as easily as we are, being that they’ve lived for too long without anyone questioning their accounts.
We’re lucky to have a solid and great history and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to create more of it. Afterall, good things come to those who wait.