Here's how you can support Sunderland AFC over Christmas AND help the city's economy
A Christmas campaign has been launched to give Sunderland a boost both on and off the pitch over the festive season.
The Have a Ball in Sunderland scheme is urging Sunderland AFC fans going to the Stadium of Light to spend time in the city's pubs, restaurants and shops both before and after matches.
The Black Cats are riding high in League One and are hoping for a bumper crowd on Boxing Day for the visit of Bradford City.
And city leaders are hoping the feelgood factor around the club can provide a financial tonic for traders.
Sharon Appleby, Head of Business Operations at Sunderland BID, said: "Fans are feeling much more optimistic about Sunderland AFC and that plays an important part in the city’s future prosperity.
"When the club is doing well it’s good for businesses in the city because everyone is in a much more positive frame of mind.
"We have some fantastic bars and restaurants and a vibrant independent shopping scene which we can all work together to highlight to the fans both before and after the games.
"And that means that the city centre is a great place to be not only through the festive season but throughout the year."
Sunderland AFC Managing Director, Tony Davison, acknowledged the importance of the club’s success when it came to having an impact on the city’s prosperity.
He said: "The football club is the heartbeat of the city and the community. When we’re winning, so are all the businesses in the area.
"We are attracting some of the biggest crowds in football – higher than seven Premier League teams – and we have set a target of 40,000 for Boxing Day, so the economic opportunity for the city is huge.
"Sunderland is a great place to be and offers something for everyone. The city centre is on the way up and is vibrant. We are proud of our city and we want others to experience the Sunderland that we know and love."
Coun Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "Going to the match offers a great chance for families and friends to get together – whether some of the family enjoy some retail therapy while others go to the game, then get together afterwards for food and drinks, ice skate or to see a show after the match - there’s something for everyone.
"This campaign to help people see that they can ‘make a day of it’ – enjoy the city centre before and after the game."