STAFF at an under threat anti-racism charity today welcomed the announcement it had secured vital Government funding.
Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC), where ex-Black Cats defender Gary Bennett now works as a coach, faced an uncertain future unless a finance bid was successful.
Bosses from the 15-year-old group, which regularly visits schools and community venues across Wearside, submitted an application in September.
Now the charity, which faces a deficit after posting a significant loss last year, has been handed £200,000 by the Government.
“This is excellent news, especially when you look back at all of the work that we’ve done,” said Gary. “The group has been going now for 15 years and made real progress.
“It would have been a real shame to lose that. It is not just about tackling racism in football and sport, but also about the problem in society in general.”
“I’ve been involved in the group pretty much since day one and have seen the difference it has made.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the money would help ensure the national game was not “perverted” by the “insidious influence of the far right”.
The organisation, which has its headquarters in the North East, organises professional footballers to run workshops, tackling the views of extremists.
The state funding, from the Communities and Local Government budget, will cover lessons for 9,000 young people, resources for teachers and research into racism.
Mr Clegg said: “Our cultural touchstones such as football must not be perverted. The minds of our youth must not be corrupted by the insidious influence of the far right.
“Show Racism the Red Card have proven their ability to use football as a means to tackle racism and intolerance and I look forward to seeing the results they achieve.”
Chief executive Ged Grebby set up the campaign from his North East home and has had support from current and former Sunderland players, including Niall Quinn, Kevin Ball, Seb Larsson, Fraizer Campbell and Wes Brown.
Others supporters include Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Rio Ferdinand. It now employs staff at offices in North Tyneside, Cardiff, Glasgow and Bedford.
Last year, former players gathered at the Houses of Parliament to mark the North East organisation’s anniversary and raise awareness of its plight.
They included former Newcastle United goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, the group’s honorary president, ex-Arsenal and England defender Sol Campbell and SRtRC education workers and former footballers Paul Mortimer and Leroy Rosenior.
Patron and ex-England manager Graham Taylor said: “This is an organisation that has done so much to help and educate young people and it thoroughly deserves all the support it can get.”