The Sunderland Fans Museum: ‘divorce our club? no, we’re wedded for life’

SuperKev plus DSuperkMike
SuperKev with SuperMike

By and large, the day we started supporting Sunderland AFC, is like taking a lawfully recognised partner,’to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health’. The analogy is Michael Ganley’s. He has turned his own lifelong passion into a remarkable initiative that fully merits our support …

A fascinating SAFC-related project, noble enough to make us forget our woes as supporters for a while, deserves exposure at Salut! Sunderland.

The Fans Museum – check it out at – has a wide and growing collection of historical items associated with Sunderland AFC.

The primary aim is to use this history and make it accessible to all, reflecting the fact that football within the city of Sunderland – and beyond in the traditionally large County Durham and Tyne Valley catchment areas – is one of the main driving factors of its history and is something all people from Sunderland, and many from the region more broadly, can relate to.

Michael Ganley, the inspiration behind the museum and its director, puts it modestly: “The historical items will act as a tool to engage and inspire people of all ages from 1-100 years+ within the wider community.”

And the museum needs help, funding support to be precise whether from individuals, institutions, groups or businesses eager to increase their local corporate responsibility programmes.

A lad with taste
A lad with taste

Let Mike take up the story:

One of the main aims for the museum in the future is to have a facility to house the hub of the business. But we need a proper, lasting home.

Having a five-month display in the City Centre Library allows us to showcase a small amount of our collection, while building up interest in the community. The data we are collecting from our visitors shows there is a huge wave of support among fans, not just of Sunderland but of many clubs, for a permanent place to be found.

Fans museum
The Sunderland Fans Museum

It would be fabulous if we could, for example, interest a blue chip company in sponsoring us to deliver programmes to schools and care home. But we would love to partner as many companies as possible and are also looking to offer an Ofsted program to all schools in the borough. We’re proud to have a recent meeting with Sunderland Royal Hospital’s Alexandra Ward, which deals with all aspects of Alzheimers and Dementia. As you can imagine, we really are delighted to help with not only education, but health care.

Another great meeting was also held with St Peter’s Church*, which has quite a history, too, one dating back 1,300 years, and we are doing our bit to push for Sunderland’s nomination as the 2021 City of Culture.

That sums up our objective to work with local organisations, using the museum’s items to engage with in the community, helping to support and enhance their learning around football, sport and local history.

One aim is to create teaching resources and tools which will help engage hard to reach members of the public. We will access schools, colleges, care homes, hospitals and like-minded bodies to provide talks, workshops, educational sessions, local history, and reminiscence events.

During our display at the central library, we shall also be doing important work behind the scenes.

Having been self sufficient for two years we are now a registered CIC. This means we are actively working on bringing in funding, sponsorship, donations and so forth from every source possible. Unfortunately, there are always overheads that need to be covered.

It would be great if local businesses sat up and realised what we are doing, and the difference we are trying to make in the area. Some have already agreed to sponsor us, which is fantastic, and we hope more will follow suit. We are the Fans Museum, and the more they help us the more we can do for them in return.

During our first three weeks of opening over 2,000 people visited the museum, which is amazing. We are here to make memories, for the young and old, and if anyone takes the time to look at all the photos we have been putting on social media they’ll see thats exactly what we are doing. So many people are leaving with huge smiles on their faces, old stories are being retold, and most importantly people are interacting with one another.

We are the only museum in the world that do what we do. We don’t lock everything behind glass; we encourage fans to wear shirts, hold medals and boots and just have a good time.

Support the supporters' museum
Support the supporters’ museum

Project background:

At present the museum has a small team of volunteers handling day-to-day running.They all give up their time free of charge as they believe in what we are doing and embrace our vision.

The idea originated when Michael Ganley found himself with some free time on his hands when his father was unwell in hospital. He posted a couple of photos on social media of shirts from his collection and the response went through the roof. It was then he realised that there could be a gap in the market for a Fans Museum where he could showcase his collection of memerobilia to fellow fans instead of it being under lock and key. A couple of small displays were followed by the 10-day display in The Bridges in October 2014 and the project has snowballed from there.

Setting up the temporary museum in the library wasn’t something we set out to do, but when the chance came along it was too good to turn down. We are extremely grateful to Sunderland City Council for giving us this opportunity and hopefully it is the stepping stone needed for us to move onto something permanent.

One thing we know about Sunderland, and the area as a whole, is that the passion people have for football will never die.

Regardless of what is happening on the field, us fans will always love our club. We should have divorced it years ago after all the heartache and shattered dreams, but we haven’t and never will.


* With input from Michael Eggleston.
Email Michael Ganley at this link

* From the St Peter’s website: ‘The major achievement of the twin monastery, and its most renowned scholar Bede, was the output of literature from its saxon scriptorium. Particularly under the abbacy of Biscop’s successor, Ceolfrith, Wearmouth-Jarrow’s status grew as another Rome in its collection of sacred writings, which the monks exported throughout all of Europe. The most well-known of these is the Codex Amiatinus, the earliest surviving one-volume Latin vulgate text of the Bible, intended for presentation to the Pope by Ceolfrith himself.’

2 thoughts on “The Sunderland Fans Museum: ‘divorce our club? no, we’re wedded for life’”

  1. Great!

    “By and large, the day we started supporting Sunderland AFC, is like taking a lawfully recognised partner,’to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health’.”

    This introduction and final paragraph reminded me of a tee shirt I didn’t dare buy for someone:

    “You can change your wife but you can’t change your football team.”

  2. Good stuff Michael, which many Sunderland supporters will recognise. A question – how many of us do you think there are? It would be interesting to ask people to sign up to this ideal. No commitment, no cost, just ask people to register if they agree with the premise of lifetime commitment. As a fan of 50 years, I will be there and there will many far longer than that meagre total…..

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