Sunderland AFC fans raise thousands with virtual ticket charity fund-raiser ahead of Papa John's trophy final

A fund-raising drive is just the ticket for Black Cats fans set to miss out on a chance at Wembley glory – well, virtually.

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 2:59 pm

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Sunderland AFC take on Tranmere Rovers in the Papa John’s Trophy final at the national stadium in just over two weeks’ time.

But lockdown means there will be no repeat of the amazing scenes two years ago when thousands of fans descended on the Capital for the Checkatrade Trophy and Play-off finals.

Now supporters are being offered the chance to snap up a special virtual ticket and help a range of worthy causes into the bargain instead.

Thousands of Black Cats fans packed into Trafalgar Square when the club visited Wembley two years ago

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Lifelong fan Peter Richardson came up with the idea which was picked up by supporters’ groups Red and White Army, the Senior Supporters Association and Sunderland AFC Branch Liaison Council.

They have teamed up with the club and its official charity, the Foundation of Light, to create special commemorative tickets, with all proceeds being donated to local charities.

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Money will be split between the Foundation, the Salvation Army, Sunderland Foodbank and Washington Mind as part of the #SunderlandTogether campaign to provide support during the pandemic and tackle challenges including rising food poverty, increased social isolation among older people, poor mental health and rising unemployment.

The Black Cats are off to Wembley - but the fans will be staying at home

Fans can make donations via a dedicated page at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/sunderland-together!, where they can purchase mementos from as little as £5 for an e-ticket, with printed keepsakes available for £10.

Businesses can also get involved by purchasing a Red and White hospitality package for £100, which includes 10 printed commemorative tickets for staff or clients.

Everyone who donates will be entered into a draw to win signed Sunderland AFC merchandise and other exciting prizes.

Last year, #SunderlandTogether raised more than £15,000 in a week for local charities. Fans also came out in force at Christmas when more than three tonnes of food and toys were collected for the Sunderland Foodbank and Salvation Army.

The national stadium will be empty for next month's clash

SAFC Chief Operating Officer Steve Davison said the initiative was typical of the spirit of togetherness among fans: “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen Sunderland supporters come together time and time again to support each other throughout the many unique challenges our community has faced,” he said.

"This is a fantastic initiative and one that as a club, we are immensely proud to support.”

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Sunderland made two trips to Wembley during the 2018-19 season, losing to Charlton Athletic in the play-off final and Portsmouth in the Checkatrade Trophy. Can they make it third time lucky?
Sunderland's Luke O'Nien, Lee Burge, Conor McLaughlin and Grant Leadbitter celebrate the semi-final penalty shoot-out win that took the Black Cats to Wembley