Ambitious plans for a new sports and education centre on the banks of the Wear have moved a step closer to reality, thanks to a £1million grant.
The Beacon of Light, to be built next to Sunderland Aquatic Centre, will house education and training facilities, with an indoor football pitch and more pitches outside.
The £15million project is being developed by Sunderland AFC's charitable arm, the Foundation of Light.
Now it has been handed a £1million grant as part of a package worth more than £3.5million from the Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund (PL/FA:FF) awarded towards grassroots projects across the whole of the North East and Yorkshire.
Funding from the PL/FA:FF goes towards building or refurbishing floodlit third generation (3G) football turf pitches and changing pavilions. The fund also provides smaller grants for vital improvements, such as replacing unsafe goalposts and purchasing pitch maintenance equipment.
Lesley Spuhler, Foundation of Light CEO, said: "This grant represents a huge step in improving access to sport for youngsters and adults across the North East and will have a massive impact on the growth and development of grassroots sport in our region.
"We are incredibly proud to have been awarded this grant from the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund and it will directly contribute to establishing the Beacon of Light as a nationally renowned centre for sport."
Sport minister Tracey Crouch said: “Improving grassroots football facilities is vital to help us get more people involved in the game and nurture our future football stars. This latest investment from the Premier League, FA and Government, will benefit community football across the country in locations that need it most.”
Premier Leagiue executive chairman Richard Scudamore added: “The Football Foundation’s underlying strategy of delivering quality community facilities where they are needed most and can be best utilised is something the Premier League has long-supported.
"Creating opportunities for young people to play football and get involved with other sports is incredibly important to developing a taste for sport and exercise and all the ancillary benefits that brings to life. It also forges stronger bonds between communities and the professional football clubs sustained by them.”