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Freedom of the City Sunderland bestowed upon Gary Bennett

Our Chief Executive Ged Grebby attended the ceremony to see our patron and football legend Gary Bennett receive the Freedom of the City Sunderland in recognition of his work in combatting racism with Show Racism the Red Card.


Freedom of the City or Borough is one of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today. It is believed to have been first presented in the City of London in 1237. Today this honour is given by the local government in many towns and cities on those who have served in some exceptional capacity, or upon any one whom the city wishes to bestow an honour. Sunderland started its tradition of granting Freedom of the Borough on the 19 June 1901 and then Freedom of the City on the 26 July 2004.

Ged comments: “Gary was one of our first patrons and the first ex-professional footballer to become a member of our staff team.  Show Racism the Red Card have after 27 years of work passed the milestone of engaging 1 million people in our anti-racism programme and Gary has been a real driving force and role model for us.  We thank Sunderland City Council for recognising Gary’s key role within our charity.”

We have spoken to Gary this morning following the event and having had time to reflect:

It has been fantastic to be put forward with Stephanie and Jill who were awarded alongside me, for all of the work I have been involved with SRtRC in the time I’ve been in Sunderland. All of the acknowledgement was overwhelming, from the mayor, and local councillors recognising the work that we’ve carried out all of the accolades makes me feel so proud.

This promotes also helps to continue promoting the work we are doing, it helps to raise awareness of racism and how it effects people. To be acknowledged in Sunderland for our work is amazing and at a time when we have reached one million! The significance of the reach and growth of the charity and the milestone we have achieved.

For me to get acknowledgment in Sunderland is huge, I’m so proud of where we started and now to look at the growth and strength across the country and the world. I did not get involved to get pat on back but to further the work, I’ve seen the charity grow from strength to strength but am so proud of it’s roots in the North East.

Watch Steph Houghton and Gary Bennett at the event here

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