Sunderland A.F.C. supporters

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Fans line the streets as the Sunderland team return home after winning the 1973 FA Cup Final. 1973facuphomecoming.jpg
Fans line the streets as the Sunderland team return home after winning the 1973 FA Cup Final.

Sunderland A.F.C. supporters are the followers of Sunderland A.F.C. an English professional football club based in the city of Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. Sunderland A.F.C. were formed in 1879 and joined The Football League for the 1890–91 season. [1] They experienced an immediate period of success with five league titles in a decade between 1892 and 1902, and added subsequent titles in 1913 and 1936. Supporters of the club, and people from Sunderland in general, are traditionally called Mackem's, but during their near century long tenure at Roker Park they were also referred to as Rokerites and Rokermen. [2] [3] [4] [5]


The club has had a historically large and passionate following, with the club seeing attendance figures larger than other more fashionable clubs. For instance a 2019 by the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) showed that over the prior 5 seasons (2013 to 2018) Sunderland recorded the 38th highest average attendance in world football with an average of 39,249 fans at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland's average attendance were higher over that period than perennial title challengers such as Juventus F.C. in Italy and FC Porto in Portugal. [6] [7] Despite relegation from the Premier League in 2017 the club has continued to post large annual average attendance figures, recording over 30,000 for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, enough for 16th in the country. [8] [9] Following relegation from the The Championship at the end of the 2018 season, Sunderland broke the League One division attendance record on 26 December 2018 in a match against Bradford City with a total of 46,039 fans. [10] [11] [12]

According to the club there are over 70 branches of official Supporters' Clubs in England and around the world, including North Korea. [13] [14] The Official clubs are represented collectively by a Branch Liaison Council that was formed in the 1970's. [15] In addition the club has had a SAFC Liaison Group (SLG) since 1994 that works with fans on club issues and an independent supporters group, the Red & White Army (RAWA). [16] [17]

The fans most enduring fanzines is A Love Supreme . The fanzine was first published in 1989 and has won several awards for best Fanzine. [18] Since 2010 the online fanzine Roker Report has operated on the SB Nation blogging network. [19]


Supporters of A.F.C. Sunderland have historically been named Mackems as are the populace of the city. However, during their near 100-year history at Roker Park both the fans and the club were also known as Rokerites while club and players were sometimes known as Rokermen, Roker Men or derivatives of. [5] [4] The old nicknames became obsolete after the club left Roker Park for the Stadium of Light in 1997 but have stayed in use.

In 2000 a public vote was held for supporters to choose the first ever official nickname for the club from five options picked by the club. The overwhelming number of respondents supported the nickname of 'The Black Cats'. [5] [4] The origin of the nickname has been speculated on and various stories may be apocryphal, but the imagery of a black cat has long been associated with the club both on the crest and memorabilia, and was used throughout the clubs history on club merchandise and supporters clubs prior to becoming official. [5] [4]

Attendance records

Sunderland held the seventh highest average home attendance out of the 20 clubs in the Premier League at the end of the 2013–14 season with an average of 41,089, [20] and held the sixth highest average attendance in the 2014–15 season with an average of over 43,000. [21]

During the 2018-19 season, Sunderland broke the League One division attendance record on 26 December 2018 in a match against Bradford City with a total of 46,039 fans. [10] [22] [23]


According to a YouGov poll in 2014, supporters of Sunderland showed a tendency towards left politics. [24]

In 2013 the club appointed Paolo Di Canio as manager. Di Canio was long associated with Italian Fascism having spoke generously of Benito Mussolini in his 2001 autobiography. [25] [26] [27] During the 2010 season he was pictured giving the Roman salute salute while playing for S.S. Lazio against clubs considered to have left leaning politics. [28] [29] [30]

In response to his appointment club vice-chairman David Miliband resigned. [31] The appointment also met with opposition from the Durham Miners' Association which threatened to remove one of its mining banners from Sunderland's Stadium of Light. [32] [33] [34] [35]


A song heard in every match is one to the chorus of "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley, with "Sunderland" being sang repeatedly after "but I can't help falling in love with you." [36]

During Gus Poyet's tenure, Sunderland fans started singing "Things Can Only Get Better" by D:Ream. [36] [37] Supporters of Sunderland launched a campaign to get the song back into the chart, to coincide with their team's Capital One Cup Final on 2 March 2014 at Wembley Stadium. On 3 March 2014, the song re entered in the UK Dance Chart at No. 19. [38] [39] [40]

Two of the most famous chants by Sunderland supporters are "I'm Sunderland till I die..." and "We're by far the greatest team, the World has ever seen" – with the former being chosen as the title of the Netflix show Sunderland 'Til I Die. [41] [42] [43] [44] One of the oldest Sunderland chants is "Ha'way the lads..." which was sang at Sunderland games as far back as the 1960s. [45]

Sunderland fans can be seen in one of the earliest football paintings in the world, Thomas MM Hemy's "Sunderland v. Aston Villa 1895," depicting a match between the teams. Thomas Hemy Sunderland v Aston Villa 1895 A Corner Kick.jpg
Sunderland fans can be seen in one of the earliest football paintings in the world, Thomas MM Hemy's "Sunderland v. Aston Villa 1895," depicting a match between the teams.

Sunderland fans can be seen in of one of the earliest football paintings in the world – possibly the earliest – when in 1895 the artist Thomas M. M. Hemy painted a picture of a game between Sunderland and Aston Villa at Sunderland's then ground Newcastle Road. [46]

In 2018 television producers and Sunderland fans Ben Turner, Gabe Turner and Leo Pearlman co-produced the Netflix documentary series Sunderland 'Til I Die with their production company Fulwell 73. [47] The "Fulwell End" was the name of a stand at Roker Park and "73" is a reference to the 1973 FA Cup Final, the last time the club won a major trophy. [48] The production company had been linked with a takeover of the club in 2017 but had pulled out prior to the start of filming. [47]

The show ran for two seasons and was a behind the scenes fly on the wall documentary following the trials and tribulations of the club following their relegation from the Premier League, often featuring the perspective of fans of the club. [49] [41] [42]

Friendships and rivalries

Traditionally, Sunderland's main rivals are Newcastle United, with whom they contest the Tyne–Wear derby. Sunderland also shares a rivalry with Middlesbrough, commonly known as the Tees–Wear derby. The club shared a rivalry with the now defunct Sunderland Albion in the 1880s and 1890s, a breakaway club formed by Sunderland's founder James Allan. [50] In recent seasons the club has also developed a minor rivalry with Portsmouth, mainly stemming from the clubs meeting each other 5 times in the 18/19 season. [51] Conversely, sections of fans share a mutual friendship with Dutch club Feyenoord; this was developed after Wearside shipbuilders found jobs in Rotterdam during the 1970s and 80s. [52] [53] [54]

The club also has good relations with Norwich City, matches between the two clubs being known as the Friendship Trophy, following good rapport in the 1985 Milk Cup final. [55]


The most famous hooligan firm is the Seaburn Casuals, named after the Seaburn area near Roker Park stadium, even though early hooligan firms of Sunderland fans appeared as far back as the 1970s and the 1980s, like the Vauxies (named after the Vaux Breweries), who were active in the late 1970s and early 1980s. [56]

At the end of the 1999–2000 and the 2002–03 seasons, Sunderland topped the hooliganism table in the Premier League with 223 and 154 fan arrests, respectively. [57] [58] According to official data released by the Football Banning Order Authority, Sunderland's fanbase was named third most dangerous in English football in 2013–14, and in particular, a group called The Sunderland Youth Firm was noted in the context of its clashes with West Ham United fans. [59]

Before the 1998 FIFA World Cup, 26 Seaburn Casuals hooligans were arrested in a police raid after a military-issue smoke bomb was let out at a local pub after a fight with bouncers. By the end of the operation, over 60 were facing charges. Some of the Seaburn Casuals hooligans picked up in the raid were also involved with neo-Nazi groups like Combat 18. The operation failed when judge ruled CCTV footage from the pub inadmissible. [56]

In March 2002, the Seaburn Casuals fought with hooligans from the Newcastle Gremlins in a pre-arranged clash near the North Shields Ferry terminal, in what was described as "some of the worst football related fighting ever witnessed in the United Kingdom". [60] The leaders of the Gremlins and Casuals were both jailed for four years for conspiracy, with 28 others jailed for various terms, based on evidence gained after police examined the messages sent by mobile phone between the gang members on the day. [61]

Notable supporters

Notable supporters with verifiable citations confirming their support or allegiance for Sunderland are listed.







Television personalities

Writers and journalists

See also

Related Research Articles

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