In a game awash with money, the FA have made it so that Sutton United need to turn to a one-off sponsorship deal with The S*n to try and cash in on their tie with Arsenal – and many of their fans aren’t happy.
Once upon a time, clubs were allowed to switch FA Cup ties like this one so the smaller side could reap a financial windfall from their share of a larger gate receipt. No longer.
Now, if Sutton really want to benefit from being paired with Arsenal, they have to hope they win or force a replay at the Emirates.
So, as a one-off, the S*n offered to pay them a five-figure sum to sponsor their shirts for the game and the club eagerly accepted.
Some Sutton fans were immediately concerned, taking to message boards to express their frustration at the decision. There have even been accusations that the club have tried to silence these critics, with fans saying posts have been removed. The non-league side deny they have had any involvement in that.
“For many of us, this goes against our whole ethos of being a volunteer-run community club,” one supporter told the Guardian on the basis of anonymity.
“Many of us have gone on record as expressing our serious concern at the choice of sponsor, especially in light of the fact that post-Hillsborough, we regard them as a toxic brand that no football club, especially not a non-league football club which is justifiably proud of its independence, should do business with.
“We would have much rather they had come to their own community for an extra injection of cash rather than go with the Sun, which many of us see as absolutely toxic.”
The same supporter, one of hundreds to buy shares in the club at the club’s request, also claims that he has been banned from the SUFC forum after posting his opinion. A chief forum administrator for the board was asked why a post, entitled ‘Sh*t sponsor’ had been removed. They replied that it had been done at the request of the club.
While that thread was removed, because the deal had not yet been formally announced according to a second forum chief administrator, another remains online headlined ‘Shirt sponsor’. One fan posted there, “I know a few people who are walking away and I’m done with the club now too. It’s unfortunate but I don’t feel valued by this club at all and I can’t relate with a club that promotes the Sun, especially as a Muslim.”
The Guardian detail a third thread, called ‘Unacceptable behaviour from a Sutton ‘supporter’ which contains ‘an allegation that another forum member received an anonymous telephone call warning them to “keep their mouth shut” and to “support Sutton”’
Sutton told the paper in a statement, “As the forum is independent of the club we have no power to ban anyone from using it.”
The Sun added, “The whole basis of this story has been denied by the club and the quotes are taken from anonymous message boards. The Sun’s football coverage remains hugely trusted and enjoyed by millions, as evidenced by the newspaper’s continuing success as the most-bought in Britain.”
I’ll just leave this here: