More than 1,300 tickets to Sunderland’s Boxing Day game will be given away thanks to a fan-led campaign to help supporters who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend.
The idea began when a fan, Simon Baty, contacted club chairman Stewart Donald to ask if he could buy tickets for a family to attend the League One clash with Bradford at the Stadium Of Light.
Since then, Stewart and other senior executives have chipped in 50 tickets each, while manager Jack Ross, his players and other non-playing staff have also contributed, alongside the hundreds of donations made by fans and local businesses.
Winger Chris Maguire told the club’s website: “The support we’ve received this season has been incredible. The dedication the fans have shown to turn up each match in such big numbers is amazing and we really appreciate it.
“This gift of football idea is what this time of year is all about, it’s important we help each other out in life whenever we can and hopefully, we can get the stadium bouncing on Boxing Day.”
The tickets will be distributed by the club’s charity, the Foundation Of Light, which works with local families and young people.
Phil King, the foundation’s commercial director, said: “It’s an amazing idea and the fact it has been fan led has probably made it a little bit more real. Generally, we work across South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham and the vast majority of people we work with, whether they are youngsters or adults, are predominately Sunderland fans.
“We work on a programme called improving futures, which sees us go into communities with families and schools and helps find programmes or courses to help improve their lives.
“That journey from going into the school, engaging with them and completing a programme with us and then getting a ticket for the Boxing Day fixture is massive.”
The fans attending on Boxing Day will be part of a record-breaking crowd.
The club announced on Wednesday that 38,257 tickets had been sold for the game against the Bantams, surpassing the previous attendance record for a League One game set by Leeds in 2008.