Sunderland AFC is to join forces with the Durham FA to promote football across the region.
The Durham FA’s mission is to assist with the development of the game at all levels, increasing the quality and quantity of football participation, whether that be playing, coaching or spectating. SAFC, as Durham’s Senior Club, is to step up to a role actively assisting in that mission, with both parties combining resources, infrastructure and marketing reach to drive participation in football.
To kick start the new partnership, Sunderland AFC and the Stadium of Light will host the final of the Durham FA Challenge Cup, one of the oldest competitions in football.
The historic competition began in the 1883-84 season, when Sunderland AFC were the winners. This season’s final, which will take place at 7.30pm on Friday 03 May, will be contested by Shildon AFC and South Shields FC.
Durham FA CEO, John Topping, said: “The Durham FA is beginning a new chapter in our relationship with our Senior Club, Sunderland AFC. We are excited by the opportunities that lie ahead for football in our county as our organisations work together more and more closely.
As we embark on our partnership, we are absolutely delighted that Sunderland AFC has agreed to host the final. This further endorses the clubs’ commitment to grassroots football and the wider community.
To play at such an iconic venue is the dream of all players outside of the Professional game and is a massive boost for the County FA and the Competition. This gesture is further proof that our senior club is committed to working in partnership with the County FA. In turn, we recognise the benefits to football in the county of us helping Sunderland AFC be successful in its attempts to reach as wide an audience as possible for watching league football.”
Sunderland AFC executive director, Charlie Methven said: “Historically County Durham is the heartland of Sunderland support and, as County Durham’s senior club, partnering with the Durham FA gives us a tremendous platform from which to reach out to the football community across the region in a structured way.
When we arrived at Sunderland last summer, we quickly identified that re-connecting with our local community was key to the regeneration of the football club. Having this partnership with the Durham FA is going to be a cornerstone of our campaign to ensure that Durham is red and white forever. In return, it is time for us to recognize our responsibilities as the County’s senior club.
By working in partnership with the Durham FA, it is our desire to support the growth and development of football, from grassroots right up to the professional level, in the county. Hosting the historic Durham FA Challenge Cup final is just the start - so we are very much looking forward to welcoming the supporters, players and officials of Shildon AFC and South Shields FC."
Sunderland AFC has won the competition on 23 occasions, the last being in 2008, when a young side, including Academy graduate Jordan Henderson, defeated Gateshead FC.