‘Sunderland supporters are vital to what we are trying to achieve here’

SAFC directors Gary Hutchinson and Margaret Byrne with players.
SAFC directors Gary Hutchinson and Margaret Byrne with players.
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On Wednesday, May 20, Sunderland AFC confirmed its status in England’s top flight for the forthcoming season with a scoreless draw against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

The news of Sunderland’s astonishing return of form and survival in the Barclays Premier League spread far and wide, as hundreds of thousands of fans rejoiced across the globe as Dick Advocaat led the club to its ninth consecutive season in the top flight.

Although the 2014/15 season brought many challenges it also had its rewards.

The red and white army reached new heights during the season, with the club’s average home attendance increasing to 43,157, surpassing Barclays Premier League champions Chelsea in the overall attendance league table.

Sunderland also enjoyed phenomenal support on the road with over 54,000 supporters attending an away day, during which they travelled a combined total of over 880,000 miles, selling out its allocation at 18 away trips.

Gary Hutchinson, Commercial Director at Sunderland AFC, said: “Our supporters are vital to what we are trying to achieve here and we wholeheartedly value the support they have shown the club week in week out.

“This season we have seen our fanbase increase domestically and internationally which is fantastic, we have added four additional UK supporter branches in the UK and five oversea branches to the Sunderland family.

“This has in effect helped grow our digital profile to new heights with our social channels reaching over a million followers and the club’s official Facebook page doubling its likes.” Following the club’s impressive season digitally, SAFC picked up the Facebook Club Performance of the Year trophy in recognition of the performance of the club’s official Facebook account.

The club more than doubled its number of likes with almost one million fans around the world ‘liking’ the club on Facebook as Sunderland recorded the largest percentage growth of any top-flight club.

Football is often described as the world’s game and Sunderland AFC is growing across the globe.

The club has developed a number of partnerships and relationships that have helped boost the club’s support.

SAFC recently announced leading eGaming operator Dafabet as the club’s new principal partner. The partnership affords Sunderland AFC the opportunity to grow its presence in Asian territories, having already seen success in Africa and America.

Speaking about the partnership, Sunderland AFC Chief Executive, Margaret Byrne, said: “We are delighted to be entering into a partnership with Dafabet.

“Our regional identity sits proudly at the heart of Sunderland AFC but increasing our global footprint is also key as we look to continue to grow and strengthen the football club for the future.

“Our partnership with Dafabet will open up new markets for us and we welcome them warmly to our Sunderland family.”

The Black Cats are also set to travel to the USA and Canada as part of their pre-season preparations ahead of the 2015 – 16 Barclays Premier League season, where they will face Sacramento Republic FC on Tuesday 14 July and Mexican Primera side Club de Futbol Pachuca on Friday 17 July, both matches will take place at Bonney Field Stadium, Sacram-
ento.

The Black Cats will round off their trip with a visit to Toronto to take on Canadian MLS side Toronto FC on Wednesday 22 July at BMO Field.

Speaking about the tour, Sunderland AFC’s Commercial Director, Gary Hutchinson said: “This tour will afford us a fantastic opportunity to introduce Sunderland to an important overseas audience and connect with our existing supporter groups in the territory which is a key growth area for our club.”

As the club continues to look at new ways to develop its international profile and build its global fanbase there is little question that if ambition and support had a league table, Sunderland would be challenging for the title.