'An absolute privilege to bestow upon them': City chiefs defend £4.5k reception for Sunderland AFC 1973 FA Cup heroes after Taxpayers Alliance criticism

City bosses in Sunderland have defended money spent on a special reception to confer the freedom of the city on Wearside’s 1973 FA Cup winners, saying it was “an honour they richly deserve”.

By James Harrison
Friday, 13th May 2022, 3:41 pm

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Following a request by lobby group the TaxPayer’s Alliance, it has been revealed an extraordinary meeting of Sunderland City Council called to make the awards cost the local authority more than £4,500, including a buffet and refreshments for the former players and their guests.

But while some have criticised the final bill for the event, organisers have insisted it was a fitting way of paying tribute.

Sunderland captain Bobby Kerr

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Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The awarding of Freedom to the City to the FA Cup winning side of 1973 was an absolute privilege to bestow upon them and an honour they richly deserve after serving the city for decades as brilliant ambassadors who continue to inspire all they meet.

“The esteem in which the players are held and the ambassadorial roles many of them have played in championing the city over the past 50 years, be it working with local charities or helping out around the club, cannot be understated.

"It’s disappointing that an event to celebrate these men, and a buffet put on for invited guests of all backgrounds, would be scrutinised in this way and used – ironically - as a political football.

Bob Stokoe statue at the Stadium of Light.

The final breakdown of costs for the evening, revealed in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the TPA, included:

*£3,257.20 on a buffet

*£817.95 on wine

*£64 on tea and coffee

*£42.50 on glassware

*£350 on staffing

According to the council, 132 people attended the event, 45 were city councillors, with the remainder former players from the side and their guests, giving a final cost of about £34 per head.

However, Antony Mullen, leader of Wearside’s Conservatives, called the bill for hosting the event “excessive”.

Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Taxpayers in Sunderland will be wondering whether this is really the best use of their money.”