Sunderland AFC Ladies back in action at ground devastated by fire
Sunderland AFC Ladies are back in action at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare ground more than five months after changing facilities were destroyed by fire.
An arson attack took place at the ground in Hetton on the evening of Thursday, August 22, 2019.
Two wheelie bins filled with paper were pushed against the changing room door then set alight.
The changing rooms are behind the main stand of the stadium, which hosts home games for both Sunderland AFC Ladies and Sunderland AFC under-23s, next to the Hetton Centre, in Welfare Road.
Officials at the centre had initially hoped the damage hadn’t been extensive.
But smoke damage, particularly to the roof, meant a repair bill of around £150,000.
Now a new roof, shower facilities, changing rooms for home and away teams plus officials, lighting and extra security are in place.
Alex Scullion, chairman of the Hetton Town Trust and councillor for Houghton, said: “It’s quite a comprehensive facility. It’s the same layout. But there’s a new roof, the lighting is up to date and CCTV has been installed.
“We thought at first the fire was superficial. But the place was completely smoke damaged.
“Some quite extensive work has gone on. I think it cost a minimum of £150,000. That came from insurance. But we had some uninsured losses too while we were unable to play games here.
“Sunderland AFC really stepped up to the plate. They provided the temporary changing and got quotes from contractors to give to the insurers.
“It’ll be nice to get the first match played. We’re keen to continue working with Sunderland Football Club. They’ve been brilliant.”
The women’s team were scheduled to play a derby game against Newcastle United Women there three days after the fire. Instead they played at the Stadium of Light.
Their home games have since been played back at Eppleton using temporary changing facilities provided by SAFC, and also at Hebburn.
Their first game back at Eppleton is at 2pm on Sunday, February 16, against Birmingham City Women in an FA Cup fifth round tie.
Admission is £3 for adults, £1 concessions and £1.50 for SAFC season card holders.