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Sunderland Strengthens African Bond

Tue 18th Jun 2013 | Marketing & PR

Sunderland AFC have further strengthened its links with the African continent by committing to a ground-breaking football partnership with the country of Tanzania.

The partnership will see the club lend its expertise to the creation of a football academy programme in the country, which will be developed by global electricity giant Symbion Power.

The club will provide technical and practical support to the development of the football academy project, the first of its kind in the country. The project will see thousands of youngsters benefit from a joined-up approach combining football, education and community engagement, harnessing the knowledge and expertise of Sunderland AFC and its own successful Academy.

To kick off the partnership, Sunderland AFC welcomed a delegation from Tanzania to the club, headed by His Excellency Dk. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania and Paul Hinks, CEO of Symbion Power.

The delegation met with senior club officials and city leaders, including SAFC Chairman Ellis Short and CEO Margaret Byrne, enjoying a tour of Sunderland’s 49,000 capacity home, the Stadium of Light, and state of the art Academy of Light training facility.

Sunderland AFC chairman, Ellis Short, added: “We are delighted to welcome Tanzania to the Sunderland family, further enhancing our club’s relationship with the African continent.

“This exciting partnership, combining football and community engagement, will enable us to share our expertise to help Tanzania develop an effective football infrastructure. We are very much looking forward to working alongside Symbion Power and seeing this project come to fruition.”

Paul Hinks, CEO of Symbion Power said: "I've been doing business in Tanzania since 1982 and today Symbion Power is its largest US investor and its largest independent power producer.

“As in the UK and countries across Europe, Tanzania is a nation blessed with an abundance of football talent. However, there is a lack of training resources. The collaboration between Symbion and Sunderland aims to provide first class facilities and training that will improve the standard of its football youth and in the future open up opportunities for them in Europe.

“Sunderland's commitment to Africa is extraordinary and impressive. The fans of this great club should be extremely proud. I applaud them."

Sunderland AFC has established itself as one of the most recognised English clubs across Africa in recent seasons.

Reflecting on the partnership, Sunderland’s chief executive, Margaret Byrne, said: “It’s a momentous day for the club and the city.

“To have His Excellency visit us while he is here to talk to world leaders attending the G8 summit is a really big commitment from him and his ministers.”

Sunderland will play a key role by providing both building expertise and coaching support.

“The first stage involves us working with Symbion Power to build a community-type academy, allowing many children to come and enjoy playing the game,” Byrne explained.

“They will be able to play under floodlights and realise their dream of playing on football pitches.

“The second stage involves us working together and Symbion and possibly other conglomerates to build an elite academy.

“We will assist with the various models we use here at the Academy of Light and also with the knowledge we’ve gained from the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) project too.

“This is a very proud moment for everyone; to be able to lift all of our knowledge and bring it over to Dar Es Salaam is very special.”

The new project is the latest tie-up between Sunderland and the continent of Africa – a relationship Byrne says is bearing fruit.

“Our sponsorship deal with Invest In Africa really catapulted the club onto the continent,” she explained.

“Now we have a partnership with Bidvest, a major South African conglomerate, Bidvest Wits Football Club and also Asante Kotoko in Ghana.

“We’re taking baby steps. We want to make sure any work we are doing is proper and that we’re getting our hands dirty and really getting involved.”

The club linked up with Invest in Africa in January 2012, affording a springboard to the ground-breaking not-for-profit initiative to promote Africa as a leading investment destination and actively challenge misconceptions about investing on the continent.

Further developing its links with the continent, the club announced recently the BFS Group Limited as its new principal partner from season 2013-14. BFS Group is the main UK operation of The Bidvest Group Limited, which is headquartered in South Africa.

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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