New funding to help bereaved football fans

A general view of the Stadium of Light in Sunderland
The SAFC Heaven Supporters Branch helps bereaved fans [Plumb Images/Getty]

A group supporting bereaved football fans has been given funding to extend the help it gives.

Sunderland AFC's Heaven Supporters Branch was created to help fans cope with the loss of a loved one.

They have been given £10,000 by the National Lottery to extend the support they can offer.

Joanne Youngson, of the branch, said the money will enable them to refer people for counselling, without lengthy waiting lists.

She said: "What we were realising is some people are really struggling, their grief might be very recent and people were waiting eight to ten weeks for any sort of support.

"We are going to be working with a local organisation - Impact Northeast - and it's going to mean we can directly refer people for counselling - no waiting lists."

Much comfort

The group already has a memorial garden by the team's ground - the Stadium of Light - and a group that meets each month.

Ms Youngson said the team has a following all around the country and internationally, and there were various ways families could take comfort from the work the group does.

She said: "One of the main things that people get a lot of comfort from is we are kindly given pitch clippings from the Stadium of Light and we dry them out and we bottle them up in tiny little bottles and people are buried with them, or cremated with them, so they’re taking their beloved pitch on their final journey.

"That little thing has been so much comfort to people."

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