Tonight’s England match at the Stadium of Light will be worth millions of pounds to the Wearside and the wider North East.
That’s the message as Roy Hodgson’s men take on Australia at the Stadium’s first international game in more than 13 years.
And the economic sporting boost to the region is set to continue throughout the weekend, with the England cricket team taking on Sri Lanka at the Emirates Riverside International Cricket Ground from today.
Sunderland City Council deputy leader Coun Harry Trueman said: “The images of a packed- out Stadium of Light broadcast across the world will not only showcase our fantastic stadium, but also our city as a global venue for international sport and entertainment.
“Hosting the game between England and Australia in Sunderland is a tremendous honour for us all, and will bring millions into the local and regional economy.
“Many of the spectators will be first-time visitors to Sunderland, and all will receive the same warm, hospitable welcome which our city and our community is famous for.
“I’m sure England supporters from all over the country and our guests from Australia will have a fantastic time while they’re here, and I hope that we’ll see many of them return here in the future for the other high-profile international events which we regularly stage here in Sunderland.”
SAFC commercial director Gary Hutchinson, who is also chairman of the North East Chamber of Commerce’s Sunderland committee, added: “It is a tremendous honour for the club and the city to be welcoming the England team to Sunderland.
“The game is a sell-out, which clearly demonstrates the demand and desire for large-scale events of this kind in our region.
“Events like this, along with the high-profile music concerts we also host, provide a timely boost to our city economy and really help to put Sunderland on the map.
“I know that the many thousands of visitors to our city will receive a warm Wearside welcome and it is going to be a fantastic occasion for Sunderland AFC and the city.”
Sunderland Bid chief executive Ken Dunbar said fans were coming from far and wide for tonight’s match, including a large group of Australia fans travelling from London, and many would be staying through the weekend.
“We are fully expecting a really good turn-out with so many people with huge spending power coming into the city,” he said.
“It will create that vibrancy and atmosphere that we need.”
Veteran Sunderland fan George Forster told the Echo he thinks it will be good to see Wearside put in the national sporting spotlight.
“It’s great that we’ve managed to get this game and the fact that it’s now a sell-out makes it even better.
“It’s a pity that our star player Jermain Defoe hasn’t been picked for the team, but this is great for the city.
“It’s putting Sunderland on the map and giving our area some good publicity, which is what we want.”
Chris Wright is manager of The Dun Cow, in High Street West. Match days were always busy, he said, and he is hoping tonight will be the same: “On a normal match day, we open at half past eleven and we tend to be busy from about half twelve right through to quarter to three, then again from about quarter past three.
“With the match being on a Friday night, I’m not sure how busy we will be but I know the stadium is a sell-out and I think it is excellent news for the city.
“The more people who are visiting the area, the more money will be coming into Sunderland.
“Whether it’s us, other pubs, restaurants, sandwich shops, coffee shops, the choice is there and the whole city has got to benefit.”
Station Taxis boss Trevor Hines said the city was set for a bumper weekend but the long-term benefits of showcasing Sunderland meant the economic boost from tonight’s game could extend far beyond the next few days.
“We have shown we can host prestigious events with the concerts attracting the likes of Beyonce, Coldplay and Take That, and the fact we can sell out the stadium for an England match can only augur well for Sunderland,” he said.
“The hotels, the bars, the restaurants, the taxis are all expecting to be busy this weekend.
“A lot of people will be staying in the hotels and guest-houses down at the seafront and they will see for themselves how fantastic it is.”
The Roker Hotel is one of those seafront venues and duty manager Robert Atkins is delighted to be welcoming England to Wearside.
“We are fully booked for this evening,” he said.
“We have got a wedding as well, but the match has probably accounted for 50 per cent of our accommodation, which is massive for us.”
As well as selling out all the rooms, the hotel is also expecting a significant boost in its restaurants and bars.
“Events at the stadium have a big impact for us. We are busy for all the football matches and the concerts,” said Robert.
“We’d have something like this every week if we could, no problem.”
Sunderland Bid hopes to extend this weekend’s sporting feel-good factor through the summer with a special fanzone in the city centre.
A 20-metre-high screen in Park Lane will not only show all the Euro games but also highlights of other major events including Wimbledon and Formula 1.
The Summer Fanzone, open from 10am, is being created by Sunderland BID, in conjunction with local bars in the Park Lane area which will be creating a range of offers to entice people to watch the games and create a real party spirit in the city centre.
Music fans will also get in the action with hopes of screening highlights from festivals such as Glastonbury.
“It’s going to be a fantastic summer for sport and it will be much more fun for people to watch it on a giant screen, where there will be a vibrant atmosphere,” said Bid chief execucive Ken Dunbar.
“It will also help boost the city centre economy as we are sure that people will want to come along and enjoy their favourite sport but also take advantage of the offers on food and drink which the bars in the area are putting together.”
“It will all be kicking off with the France V Romania game on June 10 and hopefully end with Andy Murray and England in the finals on July 10.”