Sunderland agree partnership with South African company

English Premier League side Sunderland have announced a new partnership deal with the UK operation of South Africa-based Bidvest Group Limited.

The deal with BFS Group Limited includes shirt sponsorship, perimeter advertising and involvement from the players in community events in the UK.

Sunderland chief executive Margaret Byrne said: "I'm sure this will be a very fruitful partnership.

"The groups' credentials in terms of community support are akin to our own."

She added: "This takes our club to a whole new level in terms of its international commercial activity.

"Whilst Sunderland will always be a club defined by its proud regional history and heritage, in order for the club to continue to move forward, building our reputation and presence internationally becomes a key focus."

Sunderland says the partnership also aims to build on its growing affiliation with the African continent, which was kick-started by its ground-breaking link up with the Invest in Africa initiative and recent collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Sunderland narrowly avoided relegation from the top flight last season, finishing only three points above the drop zone.

Manager Paolo di Canio, who was appointed in March, has already declared his intention to overhaul the squad he inherited from Martin O'Neill.

The Italian wants to bring in six or seven players in the summer and would welcome any new funds that may be made available following the club's agreement with BFS Group.