Sunderland is giving away more than 1,300 tickets to its Boxing Day game following a fan-led campaign that aimed to help supporters who might not be able to afford tickets.
The idea kicked off after Simon Baty, a Sunderland fan, asked chairman Stewart Donald if he could buy a family tickets to a game at the Stadium of Light.
Donald and other senior executives have since contributed 50 tickets each, with manager Jack Ross, players and other non-playing staff chipping in, along with hundreds of supporters and local business donations.
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 City of Sunderland has united over the past month and given the #GiftofFootball to ensure nobody misses out this Christmas.
And, fittingly at this time of year, three Kings have been heavily involved… 👇🏼https://t.co/n1ldOxQSxs
— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) December 19, 2018
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, according to the Press Association news agency: “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.”
Sunderland announced on Wednesday that 38,257 tickets had been sold for the game, surpassing the previous attendance record for a League One game set by Leeds in 2008.