Salvation Army footballers in unique match at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light

published on 16 May 2018

Salvation Army at Sunderland Stadium


Keen footballers from Salvation Army Lifehouses will take part in a unique match on Monday 21 May 2018 at the Stadium of Light, organised and hosted by Sunderland AFC, who are providing officials on the day.

Many of the players have experienced homelessness and are currently living in Salvation Army Lifehouses (supported accommodation) in Hull, Grimsby, Sheffield and Sunderland. Footballers from Sunderland’s Swan Lodge Lifehouse will play a full match against a combined team from the Hull, Grimsby and Sheffield Lifehouses.

The footballer residents have found more than a bed for the night at The Salvation Army. They have been able to access tailored support as they tackle the challenges they are facing in their lives and take part in meaningful activities. Activities include sport, to help rebuild their self-esteem and confidence, as well as life skills such as cooking, literacy and numeracy, to strengthen how individuals manage on their own, break isolation and to boost their sense of wellbeing.

Tony Thornton, The Salvation Army’s North East Homelessness Services Regional Manager, said: “We passionately believe in people and in the positive and life-affirming benefits of meaningful activities that fully engage individuals. For many of our players, football has been an activity that has helped them make new friends, take care of their physical and mental fitness and encouraged them to be involved in their Lifehouse community.

“Football can be a force for uniting people on and off the pitch. It creates friendships through teamwork, builds self-esteem and confidence and improves people’s health and wellbeing.

“We know that you can’t tackle homelessness and its root causes and help people to break the cycle of homelessness by just providing them with a bed. This is why our professional dedicated staff support residents to rebuild their confidence and regain their life skills by encouraging them to take part in meaningful activities, whether that’s through studying, learning new skills or taking part in regular exercise.”

The match will provide an opportunity for many of the players to experience a football game at the sixth largest football stadium in the country. It will also provide a fresh reminder of the way in which football can make a difference in the lives of people who are facing some of their toughest challenges.

Players will attend from Salvation Army homelessness services in Hull (William Booth House), Grimsby (Booth House), Sheffield (Charter Row) and the local Swan Lodge Lifehouse. The 90-minute game will provide an excellent warm-up ahead of The Salvation Army’s own national Partnership Trophy event in September 2018, when around 30 teams from across the UK will compete for a coveted trophy.

Sunderland Swan Lodge Lifehouse Service Manager Christine Ritchie said: “Every day we deliver professional, tailored support to our residents and share the hope for those we work with to reach their God-given potential. Every individual we meet is of infinite value and worth and deserves the chance to fulfil that potential.

“We’re grateful to Sunderland AFC for their ongoing partnership and for providing this opportunity today for us to come together and enjoy a day of football in one of the biggest stadiums in the country.”

Sunderland AFC regularly supports The Salvation Army’s work in the city. Recently Sunderland AFC players Ethan Robson and Billy Jones joined Kevin Ball to meet residents at Swan Lodge and to support their training session at Goals Sunderland. Watch the video for more details.

Louise Wanless, Sunderland AFC, said: “The Salvation Army is an amazing charity and Sunderland AFC is tremendously proud to support the life-changing work that they carry out. We have developed a close affinity and friendship with our local Salvation Army branch, which is located very close to the Stadium of Light, and this project is the latest in a number of initiatives that we have worked in partnership with them on.

It will be an honour to welcome the footballers from the Lifehouses project to the stadium, we hope they have a wonderful day with us and together, through the power of the reach of football, we can help to raise awareness of the plight of homelessness in our region and beyond.”