The Sunderland AFC Branch Liasion Committee (BLC) is a long-standing and vital representative of the fanbase.
As well as working with SAFC on several important club-related issues, though, the group is involved in several charitable and social projects too - and the announcement of a ‘Heaven Branch’ can be a huge comfort to those of us grieving loved ones.
BLC members already do a fantastic job of coordinating and spreading their ‘fans supporting fans’ message. Their Matchday Mental Health Hub, ran in conjunction with Washington Mind and the Foundation of Light, is available to all before every Saturday home game and in providing such a wonderful and much-needed service, they are showing the real benefit being part of a community can bring.
The newest idea, set up during the pandemic and with hundreds of members already, is to run a branch that comforts those who are grieving whilst honouring valued supporters no matter what their faith or background was.
Members receive a free certificate, and a flag has been made available should mourners want to drape a coffin in an appropriate way.
The branch started off keeping the memories of much-loved supporters alive and well known - well-liked faces like Fred Taylor, Keith Charlton and David Dent, who have all passed away in recent years, have already been inducted.
It has been officially recognised by the club and one of the organisers, Joanne Youngson, has said they are now looking to include Bradley Lowery if they can.
Joanne and her colleagues are caring people and dedicated supporters. If you want to know more about the work they do with the BLC, feel you need their support, or would like to mark the memory of somebody you can contact them on Twitter via @BlcSafc or through their website www.safcblc.com. A BLC end-of-season bash has also been announced where funds will be raised for the Bradley Lowery Foundation – it will take place at Victors pub in Sunderland City Centre on the day of the Cambridge United home game, and Lee Howey will be one of the guests. Further details can also be found via the details above.
Football is a massive part of life for many people and using it to open doors to the support that is available should you need it makes perfect sense.
The memories made following Sunderland together with friends and family can help form some of the strongest relationships you will ever know, but the space left when those people pass away can be some of the hardest to fill too; recognising them not only pays tribute to their love of the club, but also helps those left behind remember and cherish them. Thank you to the BLC for helping us do that.