Gary Bennett and Bobby Kerr among Sunderland legends shaping the future of city's Fans Museum
Gary Bennett and Bobby Kerr have joined the board of Sunderland’s Fans Museum as it gets set to open to the public for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Fans Museum on the city’s North Bridge Street will welcome back fans to see its impressive collection of football memorabilia for Sunderland AFC’s first home fixture against Wigan on Saturday, August 7.
Founded by Sunderland fan Michael Ganley, the museum showcases his vast collection of rare pieces of footballing history, gathered over the course of thirty years.
The reopening comes at an exciting time for the Fans Museum as it unveils an impressive new board of directors and committee members, including Sunderland AFC legends Gary Bennett and Bobby Kerr.
“Our board of directors is to move and take us forward, as well as our committee,” Michael said.
"The committee that I have chosen this year is a great mix, with Gary Bennett being one of the members.
“It is just a diverse committee who all have the same passions and same drives, they are all football focused but are also very passionate about our city.”
Those also on the board include Leo Pearlman, who is a partner at Fulwell 73, Sunderland born musician Don Airey, owner of JC Events Ltd Jacqui Chapman, CEO of Gentoo Group Nigel Wilson and Paul McEldon OBE, who is the CEO of the North East Business and Innovation Centre.
The Fans Museum is also celebrating the signing of a new 35-year lease on its current home inside the former Monkwearmouth Railway Station.
It has also secured up to £60,000 in new financial support from Sunderland City Council to continue its planned development and expansion work.
Michael added: “It is great that we have secured an extension to our lease for 35 years.
”It is what we need, it shows stability and also longevity and shows that Sunderland Council trusts in my vision and what I wanted to do for our city.
"I am very proud.”
Gary Bennett said he was looking forward to ‘exciting times ahead’ as he joined the Fans Museum committee.
"Michael has some fantastic ideas,” he said.
"He has created a board and he has asked for me to get involved as a committee member. I am looking forward to exciting times ahead.
"I think [the museum] represents a big history for the city of Sunderland and the amount of work that Michael has put in over the past three years – especially over the past 16 months where we have had this Covid – he has done a fantastic job of the inside.
"He has been able to get a longer lease now for 35 years, which means that he will be able to do a lot more at the museum.”
Bobby Kerr, the 1973 Sunderland FA cup winning captain, joined the museum board as a director.
He said: “What Michael has done with this place is fantastic – turning an old station into a football museum.
"It is nice to be involved and what Michael has done to the museum is magnificent.”