SUNDERLAND AFC is stepping up its links to Africa by joining forces with the continent’s largest independent oil company.
A club delegation has travelled to the Ghanaian capital Accra for the launch of the Invest in Africa initiative with Tullow Oil.
Those involved include director of international development Niall Quinn, international and national marketing director Mike Farnan, and SAFC Foundation chief executive Lesley Spuhler,
Sunderland has become one of the most recognised Premier League clubs across Africa in recent seasons.
Ghanaian trio Asamoah Gyan, John Mensah and Sulley Muntari, Benin playmaker Stéphane Sessègnon, and Egypt international Ahmed Elmohamady have all worn the Black Cats’ red and whites stripes since 2009.
The club’s growing presence led to the BBC World Service’s inaugural visit to a Premier League fixture at the Stadium of Light, on New Year’s Day.
Sunderland’s victory over title-contenders Manchester City was broadcast to more than 25 million Africans in Swahili.
Niall Quinn said the club was hoping to use the power of football for good in Africa, in the same way the SAFC Foundation does at home.
“We are genuinely excited about this ground-breaking opportunity to bring Sunderland into new territories.
“And the global appeal of the Premier League is something that we can harness as a powerful tool for change, through our innovative partnership with Invest in Africa.
“Africa’s passion for football is both heart-warming and inspirational, and as a football club with community, people and international aspirations firmly at its core, there is a natural synergy between us and this wonderful continent.
“We look forward to growing and developing the partnership in the coming months.”
They plan to attract further partners from the international businesses community to help shape the programme in years to come.
Chief executive Aidan Heavey said: “Tullow is investing in Africa for the long term, and we want more businesses to do the same.
“Africa has been good to us, and we have been successful, but we want that success to bring growth for local people and economies too.
“Africa’s a great place to invest, and this partnership with Sunderland AFC will allow us to get the message to a global audience.
“There are some great opportunities out there and we want other companies who share our vision to join us.”