FOOTBALL fans have been raising money for charity with an annual event.

For nearly two decades, supporters from in and around Chester-le-Street have been raising money for local charities with their annual trip to Chester Races.

Known as Sid’s Tours, what began as a ‘stag do’ for 36 football fans back in 2001 has now grown to a group of around 200 and raised £75,000 for good causes.

For the last three years, Sid’s Tours, organised by Kevin and Alison Atkinson, from Chester-le-Street, has raised almost £16,000 for North-East cancer charity, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Last year, they raised £6,138 and Lady Elsie met up with the group to receive the cheque at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Lady Elsie says: “It is especially nice because I’ve been able to say thanks to Kevin, Alison, all the group once again for their generosity and commitment to raising money for us.

“We’re very grateful and every penny will help us find better ways to detect and treat this terrible disease.”

The charity fundraising first began when Mr Atkinson, the co-founder of the Chester-le-Street and District SAFC Supporters’ Association, started putting on events for he club and local charities.

He handed the supporters’ club side of things over to other branch members some years ago and the group, which became Sid’s Tours, is now solely committed to fundraising and includes fans of other football clubs, too.

Mr Atkinson said: “When we decided we should pass the reigns of the supporters’ club on to some of the other members we didn’t want to stop the fundraising we’re all so passionate about.

“We enjoy coming together as a group and are proud to have done some real good over the years. We’ve enjoyed some fantastic trips away, too.”

Last year’s fundraising included what has become a tradition for Sid’s Tours: a trip to Chester Races with a night out in Liverpool, followed by an afternoon of entertainment - comedy, karaoke and popular Yorkshire band, Here’s Johnny at Wakefield’s Westgate Common Club.

This year, once again, there was also a special event at Sacriston Workmen’s Club with North-East rock music favourites, Alexander’s Palace.

Mr Atkinson added: “Fundraising for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is important to us because the charity is helping people from all across this region and we all know someone affected by cancer.

“Lady Elsie’s been very supportive and it’s great to be able to hand over the cheque in person.”