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Monday, April 22, 2024

Sunderland’s finest: Kevin Ball and Gerard Fowler to receive civic honours for outstanding contributions

ouncillors have unanimously agreed to recognise two Sunderland stalwarts with prestigious civic awards.

Councillors have unanimously agreed to recognise two Sunderland stalwarts with prestigious civic awards.

The latest authority-wide meeting of Sunderland City Council backed two new nominations for the Honorary Freedom of the City, the highest honour the city can bestow.

Freedoms are traditionally given by the local authority to those who have made “significant positive contributions to the reputation and wellbeing of the city and its residents”.

The latest nominations include Sunderland AFC legend Kevin Ball who has been involved with the club for more than 30 years.

A council report noted his “popularity with generations of supporters has earned him a special place in Sunderland AFC’s history” and as a “proud, adopted Mackem he embodies the hard-working and honest spirit of the club and the city”.

The second proposed recipient for the award is ex-serviceman Gerard ‘Ger’ Fowler, for his work with the Sunderland Armed Forces Partnership and for founding Veterans in Crisis.

Mr Fowler is also a senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland and has won numerous awards for services to veterans, including an English Veterans Award for ‘leader of the year’.

At the meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, 20 March, it was agreed the two would both be granted the position of Honorary Freemen of the City, with a formal ceremony to be arranged in the near future to bestow the awards.

Cllr Michael Dixon. Image: Sunderland Council

Conservative Cllr Michael Dixon, St Michael’s ward representative, said he was “delighted to begin the procedure” of proposing Mr Ball for the honour.

Speaking at the meeting, he said: “In my time as a supporter going back to 1959 Kevin Ball was one of, if not the, most significant and important person to have been associated with the club.

“Player, captain, positions in the academy, under-18s coach, senior development coach, interim manager twice and club ambassador, a list of roles Kevin has filled, and there are probably more besides.

“Add to these the countless examples of personal kindness shown to fans and organisations who have needed support or fundraising and you have a mighty impressive person here.”

Cllr Sam Johnston. Image: Sunderland Council

Cllr Sam Johnston, St Peter’s ward representative, said Mr Fowler also “richly deserves this award for all he’s done” for the city.

The Conservative councillor added: “His Veterans in Crisis charity has done some vital work across our city, helping a lot of people and obviously his ERV Centre has been a fantastic facility helping veterans.”

Cllr Graeme Miller. Image: Sunderland Council

Labour’s Cllr Graeme Miller, city council leader, thanked councillors for their tributes and said both candidates were “very, very valid and utterly deserving of the freedom for quite different reasons”.

It comes after earlier this month the city council’s ruling cabinet had backed the two new nominations for the Honorary Freedom of the City, and recommended them to council for approval.

The council’s chief executive, in consultation with the leader of the council, will now agree “all appropriate arrangements for the formal ceremony at an extraordinary meeting of the council to be held at the earliest opportunity”.

The latest meeting of city council also agreed to appoint two former councillors as Honorary Alderman and Alderwoman of the City of Sunderland “in recognition of their eminent service to the city”.

Former Conservative Cllr Peter Wood and former Labour representative on the city council Louise Farthing will receive the honour at a formal ceremony to be arranged after the proposal won support from councillors.

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