There is a constant theme that runs through Bob’s life and that is his desire to create a legacy that enables the less fortunate in society to fulfil their potential and lead happy and constructive lives. The Foundation of Light, a registered charity, is an acclaimed example of this.
When Bob became Chairman of Sunderland in 1986 one of his ambitions was to develop his vision for a true community based football club. His strong views on over-coming social exclusion led to the establishment of the nationally renowned Foundation of Light, which is now the biggest and best football charity in the UK.
The Foundation’s mission is simple; to use the power of football to involve, educate and inspire more than 42,000 young people and their families across the North East each year through a broad range of innovative and award-winning programmes that can help change lives. It is the kind of scheme which might have helped an unemployed school leaver such as Bob, had it been around in the early 1960’s.
The Foundation began in 1988 when the club took part in the successful pilot scheme ‘Community Programme in Professional Football’. The results of this pilot were instrumental in the Football Trust’s decision in the early 1990’s to invest nationally in Football in the Community schemes, with which Sunderland were involved from the outset.
By the time the Club moved from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light, a far-reaching community programme had already been developed, but the new stadium proved to be the real catalyst for the Foundation, which has gone from strength to strength during the past ten years.
The completion of the inspirational Centre of Light in 2004 provided a brand-new educational facility within the Stadium of Light, comprising five state-of-the-art classrooms and a football development area.
Under Bob’s guidance, 100 full time staff, part timers and volunteers, now go daily into the community, teaching youngsters good habits about sporting behaviour, fitness and health awareness, whilst having fun and playing football. Tens of thousands of children and their teachers are also welcomed to the Foundation’s own education department for specially designed activities, which enable children to learn through football in line with National Curriculum requirements.
Bob still has a strong vision for the future of the Foundation: “I fervently believe the Foundation of Light is best of its kind in the country and is run by the best people. It has to be good because the region both needs and deserves the best.
“The Foundation’s 10th Anniversary was a significant milestone but is just the beginning. I’m focussed on exploring what we can achieve in the next decade and the difference the Foundation can make to the lives of young people in the region and beyond.”
The Foundation is proud to have an active Royal Patron, HRH The Countess of Wessex, and the trustees who all have strong Sunderland connections are Kate Adie OBE, Steve Cram MBE, Lord Puttnam of Queensgate, Baroness Estelle Morris, Ellis Short, Sir Tim Rice, the Rt. Hon. James Ramsbotham DL, Paul Collingwood MBE, Sir Peter Vardy and Sir Bob Murray CBE himself who remains Chair of Trustees.