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Sunderland should release grounds to community say campaigners

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Sunderland left their old training ground the Charlie Hurley Centre, named after their “player of the century”, in 2003 – and the site has been largely unused since. Local coach Peter Curtis tells us about the campaign to allow grassroots football groups to use the facility…

Several years ago I wrote to Sunderland AFC asking for permission to use the facilities at The Charlie Hurley Centre, in return we would maintain and care for the pitches at no cost to Sunderland.

“No” they said. “Sorry, we are not interested. It is part of our long term plans.” Five years on and it is still wasting away.

Tragic really, and what makes it even worse is when you think of the money involved in the Premier League. Meanwhile grassroot football clubs continue to struggle.

I feel it has been a missed opportunity to get more children engaged in football. The centre was named in honor of Sunderland AFC player of the century the great man Charlie Hurley.

It is a real shame that no initiative has taken place to get this facility in use, despite several different groups approaching the club asking for its use. The land has been sitting unused for several years, rotting away.

I am unsure what the plans are for the Charlie Hurley Centre but if the club do care about the community they must consider the possibility of releasing the grounds back to the Community.

I have been taken aback by the passion and response we have received on this issue and it is not just from the North East it is nationally and even internationally.

We have been delighted to hear from the great man himself Charlie Hurley, through his grandson:

“I’ve noticed you’ve put up a post regarding the vacancy of the Charlie Hurley centre. Speaking on behalf of my grandad,  he would love to reopen the centre for the use of your scheme you have going on, unfortunately my grandad is now at an age where he can’t fight on his behalf to reopen the centre due.

“The great Charlie Hurley would not allow this to happen, it’s a great shame they don’t reopen it. If there’s anything I can help you with I can represent my grandad and something can possibly be arranged.”

Lets hope things do change and we see not just this facility but facilities across the country being returned to their communities for the benefit of everyone.

The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don’t necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn’t be attributed to the FSF.

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Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund


  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • SD Europe