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Coals to Goals: Sunderland AFC’s history should prove to be a rich seam

An intriguing new Foundation of Light initiative has been launched this week following the award of National Lottery funding.

It can be draining trying to keep on top of developments at Sunderland AFC – supporters would probably prefer to focus primarily on matters on the pitch, and if you don’t have a working knowledge of the definitions and intricacies of shareholdings and business protocol it can be hard to pick through a lot of the mistruths, agendas and pontification flying about right now.

People are rightly worried about how the club is run and who is doing the running, and such an emotive subject will invariably cause rifts between some fans. One thing we can hopefully all agree on though is that whilst we have no idea of what the future holds for Sunderland, we have a past that is worthy of celebration.

Looking through the history books and remembering our status within the game can provide a nice break from the current day trials, and the announcement on Wednesday of a new venture that is set to explore Sunderland’s traditions further is very welcome.

The Foundation of Light has secured funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and will be using it to create a three-year project named ‘Coals to Goals’ that aims to bring people together.

What went before...

Building on their mission statement of using ‘the power of football’ to improve lives in the region, the scheme will look to focus on the history of SAFC and in particular its links to Wearmouth Colliery, using living memories to engage with and encourage supporters and local community groups.

The project will be overseen by Wearside inspiration Aly Dixon, who will head up a collaborative steering group comprising Sunderland AFC representatives, the Senior Supporters Association and Sunderland City Council Heritage, as well as Durham Miners’ Association, who will hosting educational workshops as part of the plans.

Club historian, the hugely respected Rob Mason, is one of the figures in the group and has explained that one strand will be to hone in on players and fans that experienced the club’s growth during the 1950s and 1960s.

The full program of themed activities will on be based on the internationally recognised ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ of connecting, learning, taking notice, giving and being active, and will build-up to the creation of an interactive timeline that will be installed around the Stadium Park site that has now replaced the former colliery.

It has been a busy week for the club’s official charity the Foundation of Light; Sir Keir Starmer was a guest at the Beacon on Monday and it was pleasing to see some of the amazing and wide-ranging work that goes on there being recognised.

Elements include reaching out to people at risk of loneliness or living with dementia, and empowering local people that may be unemployed or on low income. Sports coaching and enabling greater physical activity are key aspects that benefit the community too, and now this latest announcement will see their range grow even further.

Keir Starmer Launches Security Prosperity Respect Tour In Sunderland
Sir Keir visits the impressive Beacon of Light facility
Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The Foundation, like the football club, has a huge influence on the area. It continues to be a credit to Sunderland and hopefully Coals to Goals will be something else they are involved with that everybody can get behind and enjoy.

More information about the project will be released in spring 2022. To read more in the meantime visit Foundation of Light: the official charity of Sunderland AFC

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