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Football | Football Features

Sunderland players celebrate © Action Images

Sunderland seek to invest more in Africa



The African Football Executive conference got underway in Johannesburg on Thursday with a host of international clubs and speakers waxing lyrical about their intentions to focus more on the African market.

The event, which ends of Friday, started with a keynote address from former SA Football Association (Safa) president Mofeli Oliphant, who spoke about leadership in African football: a key ingredient to attaining success on and off the pitch.

Also in attendance, were deputy sports minister Gert Oosthuizen, Safa chief executive Robin Petersen, former director of international relations at Fifa Jerome Champagne, Fifa development office Ashford Mamelodi, SuperSport head of Africa Gary Rathbone, Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne and a host of other guests.

Among the presentations that would have grabbed the attention of the audience was that of Sunderland, currently placed ninth in the English Premier League, which grabbed the attention of many. “Sunderland want to become the people’s club in Africa,” said Byrne.

"The first step is making people aware of what a great football club we are, what we stand for and what we are about. It’s making people realise that there are more than just two or three clubs in the Premier League."

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The club currently has a link to the continent as they have become home to Ghanaian stars Asamoah Gyan, John Mensah and Sulley Muntari. Along with Benin star Stephane Sessegnon and Egypt international Ahmed El Mohamady the African players helped the Black Cats to a top ten finish in the Premier League last season.

Through the “Invest in Africa” initiative, Sunderland aims to “stimulate and sustain economic growth across the continent. The club’s growing presence on the continent led to BBC World Services’ inaugural broadcast of Swahili commentary for the match against Manchester City, to an audience of over 25 million.

Another English Premier League club, Liverpool, also expressed their intension to go aggressively into the African market.

The inaugural African Football Executive Summit was held in Accra, Ghana (26/27 May 2011) and was attended by 150 high level football and business executives from Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Switzerland.

This event is the continent’s most exclusive football business event where senior executives linked to African and international clubs, leagues, federations, brands and sports agencies come together to learn, network and do business.

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