How you can play football at Sunderland's Stadium of Light and also help charity

Football fans are urged to quickly snap up the last places in a charity match at Sunderland's hallowed Stadium of Light ground.

Wednesday, 8th May 2019, 6:01 pm
Front row, from left, Sunderland legend Kevin Ball, Veterans in Crisis founder Ger Fowler and match organiser John Stephenson, of Genesis Protection Services.

The lucky players will also be managed on the day by red and white legends Jimmy Montgomery, Gary Bennett and Chris Turner.

Club stalwart Kevin Ball has also offered his support.

The game takes place on Tuesday, May 28, and will boost a £15,000 appeal by the city's Veterans in Crisis Sunderland (VICS) to buy a minibus.

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It will be followed by a presentation at the nearby Hilton Garden hotel to promote the skills former servicemen and women offer employers while also highlighting the challenges affecting their mental health.

The day is organised by Black Cats fan John Stephenson, 45, from Hebburn, who served 22 years with the 2nd Royal Signals before becoming an operations manager with military insurance specialists Genesis Protection Services.

Mr Stephenson, a former sergeant major, said: "I know myself over the last 18 months that it can be difficult to make the transition from the services to civilian life.

"We want to let employers know that are getting top quality employees, disciplined and trained, but who are in a different environment and may need support."

Businesses, service personnel, VICS members and the group's supporters are among the fundraisers taking part in the 9am match.

Mr Stephenson said there are still free ball boy and girl places available as well as sponsorship opportunities.

He said: "We still have time for businesses to get their logos in the programme as well as around the pitch.

"It is also free for the public to watch."

VICS founder, Ger Fowler, who has helped scores of former service personnel with a host of issues since setting up the group in its current guise more than a year ago, thanked Mr Stephenson, Genesis Protection Services, Sunderland Football Club and sponsors for their support.

He added: "It is wonderful to see the city getting behind us once again and I hope as many people as possible can either sponsor the match or come along to cheer us on."

The minibus would have a range of uses such as transporting veterans to job interviews, training courses and medical appointments.

Anyone wishing to support the minibus appeal should contact Mr Fowler on (07398) 916590 or via the group's Veterans in Crisis Facebook page.

Places to play cost ¬£100 and are available by contacting Mr Stephenson on (07825) 834509 or by emailing [email protected]