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Sports project for disadvantaged people wins North East and Cumbria BBC Power of Sport Award

A group which has brought sport to over 3500 disadvantaged people in the North East has been awarded the 2009 BBC Power of Sport Award, supported by Sport England.

Sport Universities of North East England (SUNEE) is using the power of sport to improve the lives of homeless people, vulnerable women, looked after children and those suffering from drug and alcohol addictions. Thanks to the project, thousands of people now have sport as a part of their daily lives.

The BBC Power of Sport Award was presented to SUNEE by Sport England at last night’s awards ceremony at Sunderland University. The award recognises real projects that have made a difference in the community and SUNEE’s work is a leading example of this.

SUNEE offers a range of sports, including football, badminton and both codes of rugby, to disadvantaged groups across the North East. It uses university students as coaches and volunteers to offer open sports sessions and match days for over 16s who are not in education, employment or training. It also offers closed sessions specifically targeted at people referred by agencies such as the Princes Trust and the probation service.

All of SUNEE’s activities are aimed at people on low incomes and the organisers are now working with several prisons in the region to raise awareness and engage with offenders on release. In recognition of their work, the people behind SUNEE have also been nominated for a National Criminal Justice Award.

Graham, a 32 year old from Sunderland, is one of the many people to have benefited from SUNEE’s work. Graham’s life was taken up almost entirely by drugs, alcohol, violence and crime and, as a result, several periods in prison. When Graham was told that his next offence would result in a life sentence, he realised that he needed help and turned to SUNEE and the chance to join a football team they were organising. The change of scene and positive direction started Graham on a new course in life – including qualifying as a football coach and mentoring others on the programme. Graham is now volunteering at a drug treatment centre and attending college.

Graham said: “Probation has been good, they’ve given me opportunities and support, but it’s the programme that has done the most for me. As soon as I came in they showed me what respect meant which I’d never had in my life. It feels good to be able to help people. It’s weird because it’s only a couple of years ago that I was on the other side and now to be giving instead – it feels good.”

Collecting the BBC Power of Sport Award, Neil Hurran from SUNEE, said:

"Winning this award is fantastic for everyone involved in the partnership, which has been going from strength to strength. It is testament to the dedication of our staff and in particular the student volunteers who are key to everything we do."

David Holdsworth, Controller BBC English Regions, adds: "All of our Power of Sport award winners are making a real difference through sport to the lives of people in their communities.  Finding and telling these fantastic stories back to our audiences across England are at the heart of what the BBC is here to do, so we're delighted to be part of these awards."

Sport England is supporting the BBC Power of Sport Award. Jennie Price, Sport England’s Chief Executive, presented SUNEE with their award. Jennie said:

“This award celebrates the power of sport to improve lives and enrich local communities. The SUNEE project proves just what can be achieved when you have great ideas backed by dedicated people.”

Notes to Editors:

You can read a full profile of SUNEE by going to their case study page

For more information on the BBC Power of Sport Awards, supported by Sport England, please visit

The Sport Universities North East England partnership

  • The SUNEE partnership is made up of 5 universities in the North East, including Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teeside.
  • SUNEE works across the region including in Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland, Ashington, Gateshead, Hartlepool, Walker, Grangetown, Darlington and Middleborough.
  • SUNEE works with disadvantaged groups throughout the region by providing people with access to regular, safe and structured sports and physical activities.

Sport England

Sport England invests National Lottery and Exchequer funding in organisations and projects that will grow and sustain participation in grassroots sport and create opportunities for people to excel at their chosen sport.

Sport England is committed to creating a world-leading community sport system, and has set specific and measurable targets to achieve by 2012/13:

  • One million people doing more sport
  • A 25% reduction in the number of 16- to 18-year-olds who drop out of at least five key sports
  • Improved talent development systems in at least 25 sports
  • A measurable increase in people’s satisfaction with their experience of sport
  • A major contribution to the delivery of the five hour sports offer for children and young people.

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