It’s official – Sunderland is the sporting capital of the North East.
With the new Premier League season just four days away, the city has already scored a victory over its rivals by being voted ahead of Newcastle as the greatest sporting city in the region to be a fan.
It’s nice to be ahead of Newcastle in the poll. We’re used to beating them, so long may that continueMartyn McFadden
In all, the research project, delivered by broadcaster ESPN, the University of Gloucestershire and University of Bath, marked Sunderland as the fourth-best city in the UK to watch sport, based on a number of factors.
They include value for money, atmosphere, history, transport links, success and venues, and a survey of more than 5,000 supporters helped to create the results.
Only Manchester, London and Glasgow pipped Sunderland to top spot, while rivals Newcastle were down in 16th, with Middlesbrough 34th.
The biggest sporting attraction in Sunderland, of course, is the football, with the Black Cats still pulling in regular attendances of more than 40,000 at the Stadium of Light, despite a lack of recent success.
Martyn McFadden, the editor-in-chief of Sunderland AFC fanzine A Love Supreme, was pleased to see the ESPN research provide the Black Cats with another victory over rivals Newcastle – who they have beaten five times in a row on the pitch.
He said: “Sunderland is a really good place to watch sport.
“I think the atmosphere and passion of the crowd, as well as the value for money, is probably among the best in the country.
“We’ve not had the greatest football team of late, but Sunderland fans have remained passionate and that support deserves to be recognised.
“The attendances are regularly better than the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool, and hopefully that loyalty will be rewarded soon.
“It’s nice to be ahead of Newcastle in the poll. We’re used to beating them, so long may that continue.”
Steven Saunders, senior editor of ESPN.co.uk, said: “We set out to examine what really makes a great sporting city and knew that begins with fans.
“Sunderland represents the North East very well with its top-five placing, and is well ahead of Newcastle and Middlesbrough.”
Professor Andrew Parker, of the University of Gloucestershire, who led the project, said: “Our research into ESPN Greatest Sporting City 2015 took place over several months, and was comprised of gathering opinions from in-depth focus groups, followed by an online survey of more than 5,000 sports fans from across the UK, which was then cross-referenced with third party data from more than 100 different sources.
“It was very thorough and the results provide much food for thought.”