Margaret Byrne

Chief executive on new partnership

by Stuart Vose

Margaret Byrne reflects after presidential visit.

Sunderland’s chief executive, Margaret Byrne, has hailed the club’s partnership with Tanzania as a big step forward.

The Black Cats have partnered with global energy giants Symbion Power to build a ground-breaking new football academy in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam.

The Tanzanian President, His Excellency Dk. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, led a delegation on Wearside on Sunday to officially kick off the new project.

“It’s a momentous day for the club and the city,” Byrne said of the visit, which attracted media attention from around the world.

“To have His Excellency visit us while he is here to talk to world leaders attending the G8 summit is a really big commitment from him and his ministers.

“It is wonderful for us.”

Initial plans for the Academy were unveiled at Sunday’s event, which was also attended by Sunderland chairman Ellis Short.

The project will bring football facilities to thousands of local youngsters in Dar es Salaam, with an elite-level facility also planned to help Tanzania’s ascent on the world footballing stage.

Sunderland will play a key role by providing both building expertise and coaching support.

“The first stage involves us working with Symbion Power to build a community-type academy, allowing many children to come and enjoy playing the game,” Byrne explained.

“They will be able to play under floodlights and realise their dream of playing on football pitches.

“The second stage involves us working together and Symbion and possibly other conglomerates to build an elite academy.

“We will assist with the various models we use here at the Academy of Light and also with the knowledge we’ve gained from the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) project too.

“This is a very proud moment for everyone; to be able to lift all of our knowledge and bring it over to Dar Es Salaam is very special.”

The new project is the latest tie-up between Sunderland and the continent of Africa – a relationship Byrne says is bearing fruit.

“Our sponsorship deal with Invest In Africa really catapulted the club onto the continent,” she explained.

“Now we have a partnership with Bidvest, a major South African conglomerate, Bidvest Wits Football Club and also Asante Kotoko in Ghana.

“We’re taking baby steps. We want to make sure any work we are doing is proper and that we’re getting our hands dirty and really getting involved.”