Africa link good for Sunderland says vice-chairman David Miliband


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The Independent Football

Sunderland vice-chairman David Miliband is confident the club's foray into Africa will help secure its financial future.

The Black Cats yesterday announced a sponsorship deal with Invest in Africa, a business initiative launched in association with Tullow Oil which it hopes will benefit both the African and domestic economies.

However, Miliband also revealed the agreement is the most lucrative in the club's history and while he was not putting any figure on its value, he believes it will further strengthen Sunderland's position.

The former Foreign Secretary and South Shields MP said: "When I first joined the club, Ellis Short and Niall Quinn said, 'We are always trying to take a step up, each step needs to be a step up'.

"This is the most competitive league in the world and it is tough to get points.

"But we are confident that this is an important step up for Sunderland because it helps secure our financial future, and that is obviously vital to be able to do the business on the pitch as well."

Owner and current chairman Short and former chairman Quinn have worked hard in recent years to promote the club to a wider audience, and announced an initial partnership agreement with Invest in Africa in January.

Under the new agreement, the Black Cats will wear the not-for-profit organisation's logo on their shirts for at least the next two seasons, and will hope to attract a huge new fan base in the process.

Miliband said: "The biggest thing for us is that it is a long-term commercial partner and sponsor.

"There is obviously the shirts aspect to it, but I think it's deeper than that, it's about a whole range of contracts which include money coming into the club, as we have to be financially sustainable and the sponsorship is a vital part of that.

"But I never forget, we are a £75million or so turnover club, and Manchester United are, what - £450million, £475million?

"We are trying to compete in the same league. We can beat Manchester City and they have got a pretty big turnover.

"We want to make sure that we have got a long-term financial stability that allows us to make the right decisions on players and on the pitch, as well as in the backroom."

Barclays Premier League clubs will share a staggering £3billion under the latest television rights deal, but Sunderland are keen to attract new income while attempting to keep football affordable for their fans.

Miliband said: "Obviously, TV money is the biggest source of funds. We know it's really tough for our fans at the moment - that's why we have frozen season ticket prices, that's why the deal for the under-16s is that you can come and get a season ticket for less than £100.

"We are determined to make sure that we maximise income from sources other than our fans. What we want them to do is come to the match and cheer us on, and I think this deal is an important complement to that."