With fans not able to follow their team to Wembley on March 14 due to government restrictions, lifelong fan Peter Richardson came up with the idea of letting people buy a virtual ticket to help local charities.
This was then picked up by supporters’ groups Red and White Army, the Senior Supporters Association and Sunderland AFC Branch Liaison Council - who teamed up with the club and its official charity, the Foundation of Light.
And in just over a week, the fundraising effort has exceeded all expectations. An initial aim of £10,000 was hit within hours and the targets set have continued to be smashed, with the latest – of a staggering £85,000 – surpassed on Wednesday evening.
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All proceeds from the campaign are being donated to the Foundation of Light, Salvation Army, Sunderland Foodbank and Washington Mind as part of the #SunderlandTogether campaign.
Fans from across the world have donated, and as have a number of notable names – such as former owner Stewart Donald and legendary striker Niall Quinn.
And the current crop of Sunderland players and staff are keen to note the efforts of their fanbase too, with head coach Lee Johnson saying the effort showed the ‘unbreakable togetherness’ at the club.
“Although I am yet to experience the Stadium of Light in full flow, this once again underlines why Sunderland supporters are renowned for their passion and spirit,” he said, speaking to safc.com
"This is a fantastic initiative and it’s great to see our players, staff and supporters coming together to support the local community at time when it needs it most. Even though we are currently apart, this campaign shows the unbreakable togetherness within the club.”
His views were echoed by captain Max Power, who said: “The trip to Wembley Stadium will not be the same without our supporters. We miss them at each and every game, home and away, and we can’t wait to welcome them back to the Stadium of Light.
"We know that this has been an incredibly challenging year for our local community, but throughout it, our fans have not only continued to support the club, but each other. This is an amazing initiative and will help so many people within the North East.”
The club say that the printing and distribution of the Wembley tickets has already begun, with those who purchased a printed ticket set to receive their memento in the coming days.
All printed tickets will include an image of the trophy, hologram and individual seat numbers – plus a special QR code which when scanned will take fans to the Foundation of Light YouTube channel to watch a special thank you message from those who are benefiting from the initiative.