I am aware of the comments placed on social media mainly from South Shields FC supporters in relation to the date for the above and although I do not normally comment on what is said I feel that it is necessary to make a statement on behalf of the Association.
The last time the Challenge Cup Final (Senior Cup Competition) was played the Stadium of Light was 2008 and since then we have received criticism every year from supporters, players and club officials at grassroots level asking why Northumberland CFA play their Senior Cup final at St James Park (NUFC), North Riding CFA at The Riverside (MFC), Cumberland CFA at Brunton Park (CUFC) and Durham County FA are just saving money by playing at the Hetton Centre, the answer to that question is quite simple the regime in place at that time at Sunderland AFC would not provide the facility.
All will now be aware that there is now a new regime in place at Sunderland AFC and one of their main priorities is to support and become involved in community football especially at local level.
Following many meetings it was agreed that the final would be played at the Stadium of Light and it is hoped that this will continue for many years. This gives more prestige to the competition and raises the profile of the event for Players, Officials and their Supporters.
With regards to the date of the final, which the clubs have been aware of for a few weeks, many factors had to be taken into consideration as this involves three Clubs; Sunderland AFC, South Shields FC and Shildon AFC and these were discussed at meetings involving officials from both finalists.
The first considerations have to be given to Sunderland AFC as the hosts who play their last home game, at present on Saturday 27th April 2019, and due to cancellations they may have to fit other matches in. Should they be involved in a League One Play-Off those games would be played during the period of the 9th to 14th May 2019 therefore the Stadium of Light would not be available during that period.
At present both Shildon AFC and South Shields FC must complete their league programme by Saturday 27th April 2019 and therefore if we were to play the final later in May apart from the facility not being available due to the Sunderland AFC ‘Play on the pitch’ event which is scheduled between 17th to 29th May 2019, both Clubs would have players training until after those dates and also the clubs having financial commitments. Shildon AFC will definitely not be involved in a play-off and therefore their players would not have a competitive game for a possible four week period.
The current situation is that South Shields FC MAY be involved in a play-off situation and if that were the case the semi-final would be played on Tuesday 30th April 2019 and I feel it necessary to mention that they have 29 players eligible to play in the final as they have played in earlier rounds of the competition.
Arrangements for this final cannot happen within a week due to the amount of planning and organisation that takes place and as I previously stated there are three teams involved in the arrangement of this game alongside Durham County FA, and I can assure you all have been involved in discussions.
We all hope that South Shields FC achieves automatic promotion on or before 27th April 2019 and all connected with the two clubs have an enjoyable night at the final.
I can assure you that the Durham County FA will be paying towards the organisation of this game with both Clubs receiving at least a third of the gate receipts taken.
Whatever situation we end up with the players of both teams deserve supporting on the night.
Regarding purchase of tickets it was agreed that following requests both Clubs will make their own arrangements.
The County FA will accept applications via email (Eve.Walker@DurhamFA.com or Kerry.Topping@DurhamFA.com) or telephone 0191 3872929 (Option 2, Option 3) with tickets sent in the post at no extra charge or they can be purchased at the office in Chester le Street.