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2009

June 2009

  1. Take That spectacular lights up the Stadium

    Take That launch Circus Tour at Stadium of Light

      Take That launched their sell-out £10m Circus Tour in Sunderland and Bob didn’t want to miss the occasion; “It was fantastic to be part of another little piece of history and be at the…

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    Take That spectacular lights up the Stadium

    Take That launched their sell-out £10m Circus Tour in Sunderland and Bob didn’t want to miss the occasion; “It was fantastic to be part of another little piece of history and be at the first concert at the Stadium. The stadium looked amazing and the show was spectacular as billed.

    “It was an incredible  atmosphere and brilliant to see the stadium alive with people dancing and enjoying live music.  The stadium was designed to be a world class venue, to be distinctive and to put Sunderland on the map. It was built first and foremost to be a football stadium and an entertainment venue secondly but our plan from the outset was always to stage concerts and other major events at the stadium.

    “We visited the Ajax Arena when we were designing the stadium and ultimately chose the same contractors. After seeing Ajax we knew it was important to have the infrastructure in place for the future but it was also about establishing the right relationships from the beginning.  A number of people at the club worked really hard to make the case to bring concerts to Sunderland and convince the promoters to come here over many years. It didn’t happen overnight but it’s fantastic to see now and I congratulate everyone.”

     

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2008
  1. Sir Bob with the plans for St George's Park

    Sir Bob appointed Project Director for St George’s Park

    The Football Association had made a number of attempts to establish a National Football Centre from the early 70’s through to the 90’s but ultimately all attempts had failed for various reasons. The FA finally…

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    Sir Bob with the plans for St George’s Park

    The Football Association had made a number of attempts to establish a National Football Centre from the early 70’s through to the 90’s but ultimately all attempts had failed for various reasons.

    The FA finally purchased Byrkley Park, in the heart of the National Forest in 2001 and in the same year secured planning permission for the development of a National Football Centre. However, financial constraints meant that the development was again postponed in 2004.

    Due to Bob’s experience in the football industry and in stadia development he was asked to join the FA Board of the National Football Centre in 2008, as Project Director, to drive delivery of the project on time and to budget. As the only Director outside of the FA he was thrilled to accept the challenge. He actively sought the support of both the game and the nation to fund and build the national football centre.

    The FA’s Professional and National Game Boards gave their unanimous backing to begin construction of the £105m project at an announcement in London in November 2010. Work started on the 330 acre site close to Burton-upon-Trent in January 2011 and was completed on time and within budget in the summer of 2012.

    The centre incorporates state of the art educational facilities, medical facilities, sports science, a full size indoor pitch, hotel & recreation centre. The vision that saw Bob build the Stadium of Light and Academy of Light also focused on completing one of the most ambitious projects in world football. He said: “This world class facility will change the face of English football by producing quality home-grown players, coaches and managers of whom we can be proud”.

    Bob was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from Leeds Metropolitan University in 2008, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to business in Yorkshire and the sports industry.

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2006
  1. 2006

    Sir Bob steps down

    In 2004, Bob decided it was time to consider the long term future of the club he loved and started a meticulous search to find a new owner. He believed that protecting the heritage of…

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    In 2004, Bob decided it was time to consider the long term future of the club he loved and started a meticulous search to find a new owner. He believed that protecting the heritage of the club and ensuring that its philosophy, values and character were not lost was a huge personal responsibility. He knew it was not a case of finding just any new owner; he had to find the right new owner who would care as much about Sunderland in the future as he and its fans did.

    Early in the sales process Niall Quinn contacted Bob and expressed an interest in investing in the club. At the time Bob responded positively by telling Niall that he needed “to own the club, not just invest in it” and urged him to go and find investors.

    The process to sell the football club proved not to be an easy one and a number of approaches from the wrong type of investor had to be rebuffed. In early 2005, the Sunderland Board decided to widen the net by appointing a leading international sports finance firm based in New York to help. All the Board were actively involved in searching for the right new owner and made several secret visits to New York to meet potential buyers including representatives of the Kraft family.

    By the end of 2005 the sale of the club to a new American owner was in the advanced stages of due diligence when Niall Quinn finally returned to say he had put together a consortium of Irish investors (Drumaville). Bob was in the midst of negotiating the transfer to Niall Quinn when he stepped down as Chairman in June 2006.

    Bob ultimately sold the club at a much reduced valuation of just £5.7m to Quinn and said: “The club was the only thing that mattered. I’d dedicated a big part of my life to Sunderland but it was time for me to take a back seat and let someone else take up the reins.

    “Unlike many clubs, Sunderland was not leveraged in anyway and there was no debt other than the working overdraft. The stadium and academy had been built and paid for. It was a turn-key operation for a new owner so there was a great platform in place for someone else to build on.

    “The most important thing for me was protecting the history and legacy of the club. I felt a huge sense of responsibility passing the club on to the right hands, not just any hands.”

    It was to be a historic year in football terms and the end of era for Bob as he became the Premiership’s longest-serving Chairman, stepped down as Chairman of SAFC after 22 years, finally sold the club to Niall Quinn and his Drumaville consortium and was later appointed Honorary Life President.

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