THIS season’s Durham Challenge Cup final between Shildon and South Shields will be staged at the Stadium of Light as part of a new partnership agreement between Sunderland AFC and the Durham County FA.

Sunderland executive director Charlie Methven has consistently spoken of the need to cement the club’s position at the heart of its local community, and developing a stronger relationship with the Durham CFA is a nod in that direction.

One of Durham CFA’s major responsibilities is to develop the game at all levels, increasing football participation through playing, coaching and spectating, and as a club that has always drawn strong support from County Durham, Sunderland are well placed to assist their mission.

“Historically, County Durham is the heartland of Sunderland support and, as County Durham’s senior club, partnering with the Durham CFA gives us a tremendous platform from which to reach out to the football community across the region in a structured way,” said Methven.

“When we arrived at Sunderland last summer, we quickly identified that reconnecting with our local community was key to the regeneration of the football club. Having this partnership with the Durham CFA is going to be a cornerstone of our campaign to ensure that Durham is red-and-white forever. In return, it is time for us to recognize our responsibilities as the county’s senior club.

“By working in partnership with the Durham CFA, it is our desire to support the growth and development of football, from grassroots right up to the professional level, in the county. Hosting the historic Durham Challenge Cup final is just the start - so we are very much looking forward to welcoming the supporters, players and officials of Shildon AFC and South Shields FC.”

The Durham Challenge Cup, initiated in 1883, is one of the oldest footballing competitions in the country, and this season’s final will take place at the Stadium of Light on Friday, May 3 (7.30pm).

“The Durham County FA is beginning a new chapter in our relationship with our senior club, Sunderland AFC.” said Durham CFA chief executive John Topping. “We are excited by the opportunities that lie ahead for football in our county as our organisations work together more and more closely.

"As we embark on our partnership, we are absolutely delighted that Sunderland AFC has agreed to host the final. This further endorses the club’s commitment to grassroots football and the wider community.

“To play at such an iconic venue is the dream of all players outside of the professional game and is a massive boost for the County FA and the competition.

“This gesture is further proof that our senior club is committed to working in partnership with the County FA. In turn, we recognise the benefits to football in the county of us helping Sunderland AFC be successful in its attempts to reach as wide an audience as possible for watching league football.”