A GRADUATE is playing a key role in making professional football in Sunderland more inclusive than ever.

Equal rights campaigner Sam Willey has been working closely with Sunderland AFC to ensure matches at the Stadium of Light are welcoming to everyone.

Sam, 27, has helped to establish SAFC LGBTQ, which enables him to combine his love for his hometown club with his ongoing awareness raising work.

He said: “This very much a first for Sunderland AFC and they have been incredibly proactive in working with me to make sure they are at the forefront of LGBTQ issues.

“It’s important that we have groups like this across our football clubs as we want to send out the message that this is a game open to everyone.

“There is no place for homophobia, or any kind of prejudice, in football stadiums.

“We’ve had several meeting and built up a great relationship with the club so things have got off to a good start.”

Originally from Hetton, Sam studied at the University between 2010 and 2013. He is now self employed and runs his own podcast, Being LGBTQ.

He added: “The club will be flying the Rainbow flag at the match with MK Dons at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, September 28, a day before Sunderland Pride on the Sunday.”

“We will also have a stall at Pride so we would welcome anyone to come along and talk to us and we can explain a little bit more.”