A GRASSROOTS youth community football club has ‘turned professional’ after winning corporate sponsorship.

Shape Performance, which has three under eights teams in Gateshead Youth League, has had kits supplied by the North-East car dealership, Lookers Nissan.

Over 20 youngsters have now got their orange and black strips, with shorts and socks as well as blue rain jackets from the firm.

The club, based in west Gateshead, is run by coach Tony Dowson, a former PE teacher, who launched the club full time two years ago after running sessions in his spare time for a decade.

He said: “The biggest thing is the sponsorship saves money for the parents who are putting a lot of money into their children’s sport.

“The club is a not-for-profit organisation, although it is part of the business, it is run as a community club.”

The Northern Echo:

From left: Finn Havery, Scott Cooper, Myles Ledger, Paddy Jones and Thomas Rushton

Mr Dowson, who played football and cricket for Durham County in his youth, went on to study sports science at university before qualifying as a teacher.

The father-of-two, who lives in Crawcrook and taught at Whickham School, has had two games books published, which are aimed at teachers and coaches: Fun and Games and More Fun and Games.

Mr Dowson, a qualified coach with the Football Association, said: “Probably the best thing about the sponsorship is that it means we don’t have to charge the parents as much.

“It helps get more people involved and one of the kids has said we are like a professional team because we have got a sponsor so it more like a proper set up.”

The club, which is also starting an under sevens team and a girls’ side, trains on Mondays and Thursdays with games on Saturday mornings at football pitches across the North-East.

For more information call Mr Dowson on 0771-324-4023 or email tonydowson@shapeperformance.co.uk