With Sunderland AFC’s Papa John’s Trophy final against Tranmere Rovers just over two weeks away and with fans unable to attend the game in person, SAFC fans are coming together to mark the special occasion by starting a virtual ticket initiative to raise thousands for North East charities.

The idea was started by lifelong Sunderland fan Peter Richardson from Yorkshire who shared his thoughts on the Sunderland message boards. Shortly afterwards Black Cats’ supporters’ groups Red and White Army, the Senior Supporters Association and Sunderland AFC Branch Liaison Council (BLC) teamed up with the club and its official charity, Foundation of Light, to bring the idea to life and create special commemorative tickets, with all proceeds being donated to local charities.

Money raised will be donated to Foundation of Light, Salvation Army, Sunderland Foodbank and Washington Mind as part of the #SunderlandTogether campaign to support critical COVID-19 response services across the North East, helping to tackle some of the region’s biggest societal challenges including rising levels of food poverty, increased social isolation amongst older people, poor mental health in adults and children, and rising unemployment.

Fans can make donations via a dedicated Crowdfunder page, where they will also get the chance to purchase beautifully designed mementos from as little as £5 for an e-ticket, with printed keepsakes available for £10. Businesses can also get involved by purchasing a Red and White hospitality package for £100 which includes 10 printed commemorative tickets for their staff or clients.

Everyone who donates to the campaign will be entered into a draw to win signed Sunderland AFC merchandise and other exciting prizes.

Last year, #SunderlandTogether raised over £15,000 in a week for local charities, with money raised helping Washington Mind purchase a new van to deliver mental health outreach programmes in local communities. Fans also came out in force at Christmas when over three tonnes of food and toys were collected for the Sunderland Foodbank and Salvation Army as part of a special Drive-Thru Foodbank at the Stadium of Light.

Andrew Hird Chair of the Red and White Army said “Red and White Army are proud to support an initiative that was conceived by a Sunderland fan on a message board and that has now been developed so that so many will benefit. We thank the Foundation of Light and Sunderland AFC for their support of this initiative and hope that fellow supporters will get behind it.”

Malcolm Bramley, Secretary of the Sunderland Senior Supporters Association said “The Senior Supporters Association fully supports the #SunderlandTogether Wembley ticket initiative, which gives Sunderland fans the opportunity to help improve the lives of vulnerable people across the region.”

Jim Gilling Chair of the Sunderland Branch Liaison Council said “The SAFC Branch Liaison Council is proud to support this initiative and raise money for these four special charities who provide so much assistance to those in need or those who are vulnerable throughout the North East. Let’s hope the money raised exceeds our expectations.”

SAFC’s Chief Operating Officer, Steve Davison, added: “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen Sunderland supporters come together time and time again to support each other throughout the many unique challenges our community has faced. This is a fantastic initiative and one that as a club, we are immensely proud to support.”

To purchase your special memento and donate to the #SunderlandTogether campaign visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/sunderland-together