Foundation of Light: the power of football

Chief Executive Lesley Spuhler OBE talks about the importance of the charity’s new state-of-the-art sports and education centre, which was supported by a loan from Charity Bank.

“The Foundation of Light was founded in 2001 by Chairman Sir Bob Murray CBE as the independent charitable foundation of Sunderland Association Football Club. It was set up to involve, educate and inspire children and young people from the surrounding area through the power of football. The initial focus was on education, using football as a tool through which to help children in primary school to better engage with learning.

“Since then we have grown to become one of the world’s most pioneering sports charities. We work with a huge cross-section of people within our community, offering something for everyone through our focus areas of Education, Sport and Play, World of Work and Health and Wellbeing. From an initial three-person team, we now have 120 staff spanning teachers, sports coaches, health workers, support staff and many more.

“Our original focus was outreach work in community sports centres and schools alongside the classrooms and facilities we had at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. Several years ago, the idea of our own purpose-built centre began to take shape – an innovative sports and education facility unlike anything else in the UK. However, it was going to take a significant amount of funding.

“Charity Bank has been key to helping us realise this ambition. We wanted to work with Charity Bank because of their ethos and flexibility. They have been so generous with their support, time and understanding and made what is quite a complex process as easy and smooth as possible for us.

“Named the Beacon of Light, the centre will be fully open in September and will be integral to furthering the work that we do across the North East. It features five storeys of sports halls, football pitches, informal learning spaces and state-of-the-art education suites designed to create life-changing opportunities for local people and re-energising our communities. Having one vibrant hub to showcase the breadth of what we offer will hopefully encourage and inspire even more people to get involved.”

Sir Bob Murray CBE adds “Charity Bank’s flexibility and can-do attitude made them a perfect fit for our organisation and they have felt more like a partner than a lender in this project.”

“On-hand throughout every stage of the process, we received exceptional support from Charity Bank and we couldn’t have asked for more.”