Following humiliating defeats to Bolton, Doncaster and Cheltenham, SAFC fans must have been thinking that 2022 couldn’t get any worse. On 15/2/22, it did. That was the day when it was revealed that they hadn’t actually been taken over. They hadn’t “got their club back”. They hadn’t got rid of the “chancers”.

Sunderland ‘ownership reveal’ is just the latest disaster to beset their supporters. And yet a year ago, things couldn’t have been more different. They were cock-a-hoop.

Not only was NUFC’s takeover seemingly dead in the water but SAFC announced on 17/2/21 that it had “received approval from the English Football League for Kyril Louis-Dreyfus (KLD) to acquire a controlling interest in the club, signalling the start of new era on Wearside”.

Except it turns out that it wasn’t quite a new era. It’s still very much the era of Steward Donald, Juan Satori and Charlie Methven (Madrox). The era of Netflix hilarity. Of Play-off defeats. Paying £3m for Will Grigg. Players walking out to an “Ibiza vibe”.

So who actually does own SAFC? The actual ownership split is KLD (41%), Stewart Donald (34%), Juan Satori (20%) and Charlie Methven (5%). So KLD does not quite own a ‘controlling interest’ in SAFC.The majority of shares are still owned by Madrox.

So were SAFC supporters lied to by their new owner? Misled is probably a more appropriate term. Let’s take a look at how it unravelled.

After SAFC announced that KLD had a ‘controlling interest’ in SAFC, he immediately sought to distance himself from the “chancers”. He actually went as far as calling the previous owners “asset strippers”. It was exactly what the more gullible element of their support wanted to hear (all that was missing was an FTM badge and a proclamation that SAFC is the 7th biggest club in England).

KLD then proceeded to impose his mark on the club. Senior executives from the old regime, like Jim Rodwell (CEO),were swept away. New personnel like Kristjaan Speakman(Sporting Director) were appointed. Investment in infrastructure and playing staff followed. It seemed like KLD was in full control, had paid back his student loan and was now dipping into the family fortune to bankroll Sunderland.

Then things began to change.

On 6/5/21, Madrox partner Juan Sartori, was appointed to the SAFC board. He was joined by Simon Vumbaca, a lawyer who helped advise Madrox on their acquisition of SAFC from Ellis Short (if you recall, that acquisition involved Madrox using the club’s parachute payments to secure the purchase. Reportedly, that money has yet to be fully paid back).

A few days later, Sunderland tumbled out of the play-offs to guarantee a fourth consecutive season in League One. KLD sought to alleviate supporters concerns by appearing on the Jim White show on Talk Sport.

When asked about his willingness to invest in the club, KLD fudged ‘Firstly,’ he said, ‘I am not the sole owner of the club. There’s an ownership group consisting of more people, it’s not just myself owning the club. But I would say that as an ownership group, everyone is committed.’ This was a significant shift from his previous statements about Madrox.

The positivity of only a few months earlier started to drain away. Some of their less deluded supporters started to question who actually owned Sunderland. The club seemed reluctant to release details.

And then last week, the truth was revealed to the Athletic magazine. The backlash was as swift as it was predictable. Social Media, letters pages and local radio phone-ins exploded with apoplectic Wearsiders. They weren’t going to return to the Stadium of Light until any Madrox involvement had been completely removed from running the club.

KLD and Madrox attempted to placate irate supporters with a series of soothing media communications. Donald and Methven highlighted that they’d be happy to sell their shares internally within the club, presumably to KLD.

But the question is whether KLD would want to take on a greater share of this basket case of a football club. At the time of writing, SAFC are in free fall. They will struggle to even make the play-offs. Another season in League One, their fifth in a row, beckons. Off the pitch, according to KLD, the club is losing money. The overheads to pay for their infrastructure (stadium, academy etc.) are not dissimilar to those paid by PL clubs.The fanbase is revolting with threats of stadium boycotts.

You’d have to question the sanity of anybody wishing to take a greater ownership of SAFC. Ellis Short ended up about £1/4b poorer for his involvement with the club. Steward Donald bought SAFC for £40m and hoped to flip it for a quick profit. He’d now be lucky to get his money back. Would KLD, or more pertinently his mam, be prepared to throw more money at the bottomless pit that is Sunderland?

The press are reporting that Madrox are still contributing on a pro-rata basis to club funding and had to sign off the financials on the deal for Alex Neil. KLD in his statement to the press highlighted that “substantial investment will continue to be required ………. and all our shareholders remain committed to honouring their respective financial obligations”.

For all SAFC supporters’ loathing of Madrox, it’s ironic that they are still paying a big chunk of the bills to keep the lights on at the Stadium of Light.

Without the generosity of Donald and Methven, SAFC could well be on the way to becoming another Derby. Their fans should be lauding them. Just like, I seem to recall, they told us that we should have lauded Mike Ashley.

DAVE O’BRIEN