Environmentalist and television personality, Dr David Bellamy OBE, put his green fingers to work in October 2000 when he planted an oak tree to inaugurate SAFC’s academy.
Commenting at the event Bob said: “The Stadium of Light is a world class stage for the team to perform in front of the Sunderland faithful but we need backstage facilities paralleling these to ensure the team has the best possible advantage and can compete at the highest level”.
“The players and backroom staff have trained without the facilities they deserve for many years. What they can look forward to are some of the most advanced facilities in Europe, which will ensure they are given the best possible competitive advantage.
“The Academy has not been developed solely with the needs of players in mind; we have also been sympathetic to the environment.”
Thought to be a first in football, it was also revealed that the requirements of the academy have been combined with environmental and bio-diversity plan to encourage wildlife habitat creation and sustainability through the introduction of woodland, meadowland and new wetlands in an area which has for many years been subject to intensive agricultural farming.
An oak tree was planted by Dr David Bellamy as a symbol of his backing for the scheme and he said; “I think this is one of the best examples of combining the needs of the environment and sport I have seen in 35 years.
“What the club has proposed means we will see more diverse wildlife attracted to the area as a result of the extensive tree planting, re-introduction of hedgerows and the establishment of the magnesian limestone grassland, which is native to this part of the country. New wetlands will also ensure natural resources are not wasted and the environment is sustainable.
Bob Murray added: “We are committed to developing an academy which not only benefits the football club but also the environment. Our proposals have been endorsed by the Great North Forest, Durham Bio-Diversity Action Plan as well as being backed by Durham Wildlife Trust and Northumbrian Water. Getting the thumbs up from Dr David Bellamy, a recognised authority on environmental issues the world over is another significant boost.”