The Association was formally established in 1999. Prior to that point a number of ex-players had consistently supported charitable fund raising events organized by Norman Howe. These events not only proved successful but the ex-players involved found they enjoyed the opportunity these provided to meet up with old team mates. As a result, and at the suggestion and help of Norman, the Association was formed. He became its first Secretary with Ritchie Pitt being appointed Chairman. In its initial stages the Association was given great help by Sunderland AFC and, especially, the Club Chairman, Bob Murray. In recognition of this support he was appointed President. This relationship has continued to develop and Association members have, over the years, supported many of the Club’s initiatives, especially the work of the Club’s charitable organization – the Foundation of Light. Our current President is Niall Quinn who, on becoming Chairman of SAFC, made sure the ex-players contribution to the achievements and reputation of the club was recognized and acknowledged.
Ritchie remained Chairman of the Association until 2008 when he decided to stand down. Upon his retirement it was decided that future Chairmen should hold office for a maximum of 2 years. Since then Jim Montgomery, Dick Malone, Nick Sharkey and Jimmy Shoulder have completed their full terms and our present Chairman is Gary Bennett who took office in March 2016.
From the outset Association membership has continued to increase steadily and now stands at over 150. Many of our members live outside the North East as well as overseas but still attend Association events as often as possible. For its part, the Association has responded by setting up a number of initiatives, including, a Newsletter, Web page and Facebook account, which not only keep members aware of Association activities but provide the means for members to update the Association of what is happening in their lives. In addition, the Association organizes and participates in a wide range of events which provide great opportunities for ex - players and supporters to meet up in a relaxed environment. As the Association has grown it has also become a responsible (and reliable) point of reference for anyone wanting to be put in touch with an ex-player.
Full membership of the Association is open to anyone who has been awarded a professional playing contract with SAFC. This includes professional members of the Sunderland Ladies team.
Throughout its existence the Association has been consistently helped in many ways by a wide range of individuals and organizations, not only in financial terms but also in practical ways. In recognition of their contributions the Association introduced the categories of Honorary and Associate Members. Many of our supporters have, since then, accepted our invitation to take up these positions and there is no doubt this has strengthened the relationship between supporters and the Association. As we continue to receive further assistance more appointments will follow.
The Association has, from its inception, been totally self funded. Income is generated mainly through organizing golf days and social events. Funds raised are used to meet the Associations operating costs and, importantly, help charities and good causes (particularly local ones) wherever possible. This aspect of the Association is seen as an on-going priority and reflects our members’ appreciation of their role in the local community.
The Association is determined to maintain and develop its effectiveness and continue, wherever and whenever possible, doing their best to assist in any way they can, any individual or organization wanting financial or other type of support.