IT’S TIME TO HAVE A BALL IN SUNDERLAND…

THREE OF Sunderland’s leading organisations have teamed up with one goal in mind – to showcase how everyone can have a ball in Sunderland this Christmas.

The city’s Business Improvement District has joined forces with Sunderland AFC and MAKE it Sunderland to highlight how visitors and residents heading to the Stadium of Light can enjoy their time before or after a Black Cats match.

The Have a Ball in Sunderland initiative will encourage match day crowds to visit pubs, bars, restaurants and family attractions in the city centre, both before and after the game, or to use their visit as an opportunity to shop and spend leisure time.

With SAFC currently sitting in an automatic promotion spot in League One and targeting a 40,000 attendance for their Boxing Day fixture against Bradford City, it is hoped that fans attending matches over the Christmas period will also help to boost trade across the city centre.

“Fans are feeling much more optimistic about Sunderland AFC and that plays an important part in the city’s future prosperity,” said Sharon Appleby, Head of Business Operations at Sunderland BID.

“When the club is doing well it’s good for businesses in the city because everyone is in a much more positive frame of mind.

“We have some fantastic bars and restaurants and a vibrant independent shopping scene which we can all work together to highlight to the fans both before and after the games.

“And that means that the city centre is a great place to be not only through the festive season but throughout the year.”

Sunderland AFC is also full supporting the initiative, with Managing Director, Tony Davison recognising the importance of the club’s success to the city’s prosperity.

“The football club is the heartbeat of the city and the community. When we’re winning, so are all the businesses in the area,” he said.

“We are attracting some of the biggest crowds in football – higher than seven Premier League teams – and we have set a target of 40,000 for Boxing Day, so the economic opportunity for the city is huge.

“Sunderland is a great place to be and offers something for everyone. The city centre is on the way up and is vibrant. We are proud of our city and we want others to experience the Sunderland that we know and love.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council, believes this new initiative will highlight the variety of leisure and retail opportunities in the centre.

“Going to the match offers a great chance for families and friends to get together – whether some of the family enjoy some retail therapy while others go to the game, then get together afterwards for food and drinks, ice skate or to see a show after the match – there’s something for everyone,” he said.

“This campaign to help people see that they can ‘make a day of it’ – enjoy the city centre before and after the game.”