A total of £18million is being spent in Washington, Downhill and Ford Quarry. Sunderland Council is contributing around £3.6million, with the rest coming from the Premier League, the FA and Sport England.
Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller said: “This is the biggest investment in football by the FA in England. They’ve never given £18million to anybody and they’ve given it to Sunderland.
“When you look at the success of England’s Women’s football team, with seven of their squad having gone through Sunderland, and the men’s football team with Jordan Pickford and Jordan Henderson, you see football is the key sport in Sunderland.
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“I want more people playing football. But these pitches will also be used for rugby and the facilities will be used for general health. It’s about getting Sunderland active. Our Step Up Sunderland programme ties into that.
“When these pitches are ready, hopefully people will use them and we’ll have more successful footballers, a successful football club back in the Premier League and everybody having a good time.”
Four new artificial floodlit football pitches are being created at the Washington site, one of which can be used for rugby, with another three each at the other two sites. Existing grass pitches are being retained too.
Washington will be completed by October and will include extensive changing facilities, a social club and 326 parking spaces. Work on all three sites is due for completion by the end of 2019.
The pitches will be used by various leagues and sports organisations, catering for all ages and available at almost any time.
Durham County FA’s facilities and investment officer, Chris Hutchinson, said: “It’s a new way of delivering football. It will take a lot of pressure off the council on single-pitch sites.
“It’s brilliant, Durham County FA crosses seven local authorities and we’re delighted that Sunderland has been chosen. It will help hundreds of clubs.”
Colin Stores, Secretary of the Sunderland Sunday League, said: “It’s fabulous for football in the area. Facilities like this are few and far between.
“We’ll hopefully get youngsters who have drifted away back into football.”