Football club bosses in South Shield have 2,000 reasons to celebrate as they lay the foundations for their future fan base.
Last November, South Shields Football Club and the SSFC Foundation launched a matchday experience for children in local schools.
The Mariners have been offering match tickets to Year 5 and Year 6 children in a number of schools and have now had over 2,000 youngsters through the turnstiles.
The scheme is part of Project EFL - the club’s aim of getting back into the football league - with an established fan base and network of sponsors - as a community club which caters for all.
Steve Camm, Head of SSFC Foundation, said “When the Club launched Project EFL last year, one of the things we wanted to do was grow our next generation of supporters.
“Children currently in Years 5 and 6 will be reaching the age of 16 in the year 2023, and we hope they will be watching South Shields play in the Football League as a community club.
“It all started last November with a visit to Westoe Crown School. We took along four of the players to an assembly and asked the children if they had a question for the players. 180 hands went in the air!”
The club gave out 360 tickets for the next game so the children could come and watch with an accompanying adult. Many of them did, watching Shields win 3-2.
Steve said: “When we left Westoe Crown School the enthusiasm, excitement and interest the children showed confirmed that this was absolutely the right thing to do.”
The Project EFL ambassadors, with guest appearances from academy player Josh Elcoate, captain Jon Shaw and Foundation Programme Lead Nathan Kew, embarked on a tour which has seen them answer hundreds of questions from over 3,000 children.
At the Scarborough game yesterday Epinay School will become the 23rd and final school to have participated in this year’s programme.
On matchdays, the Foundation opens up the Play Park on the 3G pitch from 1.30pm until 2.30pm for the children to enjoy an impromptu game of football, hockey, tennis or rounders before staying and watching the match.
Each participating school also selects 10 children to perform a guard of honour for the players ahead of kick-off.