Fund which helped Sunderland's Olympians now needs backing itself

An organisation set up over 20 years ago to fund aspiring young Sunderland athletes is appealing for help as it struggles to attract revenue.

Thursday, 30th December 2021, 2:56 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th December 2021, 2:56 pm

The Sunderland Sports Fund has successfully helped a host of talented young people to realise their dreams.

They include Olympic boxing medallist Tony Jeffries, champion trampolinist Kat Driscoll, long-distance runner Alyson Dixon, Paralympian gold medallist swimmer Matt Wylie and others who have done Sunderland proud.

But now the fund, originally set up to support promising young athletes in lower profile sports, is itself struggling financially and has launched an appeal in a bid to survive.

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Among those to benefit from Sunderland Sports fund have been, clockwise from top left, trampolinist Kat Driscoll, marathon runner Aly Dixon, Paralympic swimming gold medallist Matt Wylie and boxer Tony Jeffries.

The fund has had three chairmen. The first was Dr Alan Lillington, the Sunderland paediatrician and track and field star who competed for GB in the 100m at the 1952 Olympic games. The second was former SAFC player and manager Len Ashurst, with former Mayor of Sunderland Les Scott now in the role.

The fund’s founding ambition was to support talented young local sports people in sports which did not traditionally attract major backing.

Les Scott said: “With substantial support from the Sir Tom Cowie Foundation, we built up a healthy kitty that has sustained us until now. We have supplied grants to the young sportspersons of Sunderland to cover equipment and travel costs in the early parts of their career and have seen them blossom on the international stage.

“But now the fund is beginning to look exhausted. We currently have five applications pending and we don't want them to be the last.

“Direct fundraising is becoming increasingly difficult with so many good causes out there which we have to compete with. So we’re looking for sponsors, benefactors and philanthropists with an interest in the young people of the city with sports talent.

“If you’re good at football or rugby or cricket, you’re likely to be picked up and supported by existing clubs and bodies.

“But that often wasn’t true of swimming or martial arts, fencing or badminton, or any sport with a disability.

“We also need to refresh the trustee positions of the fund and would be delighted to hear from anyone prepared to give up a little time.”

To help, email either [email protected] or [email protected], or call 0191 526 2545.

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