Sunderland AFC supporter group call for clarity over who owns the League One club

Sunderland AFC majority shareholder Kyril Louis-Dreyfus. Credit: PA Images

Sunderland fans have called for clarity over who is running the club after it emerged that majority shareholder Kyril Louis-Dreyfus owns only 41%.

It was announced in February last year that the then 23-year-old, son of the late former Marseille owner Robert Louis-Dreyfus, had acquired "a controlling interest" at the Stadium of Light after buying out Stewart Donald and his Madrox partners, who retained "a minority shareholding".

However, it has now emerged that Donald, Juan Sartori and Charlie Methven still own 59 per cent of the club between them, sparking an angry backlash from supporters who believed their ill-fated spell on Wearside had effectively come to an end 12 months ago.

It has emerged that Stuart Donald, Juan Sartori and Charlie Methven between them still own 59 per cent of the club. Credit: PA/Tyne Tees

Such is their unpopularity that Giles Mooney, of independent fanzine A Love Supreme, believes they have little option to sell up and is hoping the mechanism for them to do so was enshrined in the agreement struck last year:

"All we can hope is there is a pre-agreed price on that which makes the whole process easy, and Kyril can then do what he wants with the club - which hopefully will be fantastic and brilliant and everything else.

"But I think the only way forward now is that they leave and I hope one of the reasons this process took so long in the first place a year ago is because Kyril's team had put in very clear steps towards the end result of ownership rather than where we are now."

The fanzine is not alone in being concerned by the revelation.

SAFC podcast 'Wise Men Say' have also said the ownership confusion would lead fans to question their trust in the club, which could ultimately throw season ticket holders into doubt over whether to renew.

Richard Easterbrook from the podcast said the controversy surrounding owners is a real blow to fans, who thought the takeover last year was their route out of League One.

Disquiet over the influence of the Madrox partners on the club's operations mounted in the wake of Lee Johnson's departure as head coach and the subsequent lengthy recruitment process which saw high-profile former boss Roy Keane reject the opportunity to return before Alex Neil was appointed.

That change coincided with an alarming dip in form. The Black Cats have taken just a single point from the last 12 on offer to all but end their hopes of securing automatic promotion from League One at the end of their fourth season in the third tier.

The largest single shareholder Louis-Dreyfus is responsible for the day-to-day running of the club, but fans fear the big decisions are still being taken collectively.

Both Stewart and Methven have indicated they are more than willing to sell up, and for Mooney, a chartered accountant by profession, that cannot come soon enough.

"We need a bit of honesty and we need a bit of clarity." He said.

"Buying more of their shares would be a very good idea, but more important is to have the honesty to tell fans, 'This is who runs the club, these people have absolutely no input and no effect on that whatsoever'.

"In doing so, you move everything forwards, it ceases to be an issue."