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The Stadium of Light is an all-seater football stadium in Sunderland, England and the eighth and current home to Sunderland A.F.C. With space for 49,000 spectators, the Stadium of Light is the ninth largest stadium in England. The stadium primarily hosts Sunderland A.F.C. home matches. The stadium was named by chairman Bob Murray to reflect the coal mining heritage of the North East and the former Monkwearmouth Colliery site on which it stands. A Davy lamp monument stands at the entrance to reflect the coal mining industry that brought prosperity to the town.
As well as hosting Sunderland games, the stadium has hosted three matches for the England national football team, as well as one England under-20 football team match. With an original capacity of 42,000, it was expanded in 2000 to seat 49,000. Its simple design is apparently to allow for redevelopments up to a capacity of 63,000. The attendance record at the Stadium of Light is 48,353 set on 13 April 2002, when Sunderland played Liverpool with the visitors running out 1–0 winners. Along with hosting football matches, the stadium has played host to performers such as Beyoncé, Rihanna, Oasis, Take That, Kings of Leon, Coldplay and the Spice Girls. The ground also holds conference and banqueting suites, the Black Cats Bar, and a club shop selling Sunderland merchandise.
During construction, the stadium had not adopted an official name, and had been known colloquially as the "Wearside Stadium" and "New Roker Park". The name was eventually revealed as the Stadium of Light at a naming ceremony on 30 July 1997, hours before the opening game against Ajax. Speaking at the naming event, Bob Murray explained the inspiration for the name came from the Coal mining heritage of the region and the stadium's Monkwearmouth Colliery site:
"For many years, miners at Wearmouth Colliery carried with them a Davy lamp as part of their working lives. Reflecting this tradition, the name allows the image of this light to shine forever."
The name initially drew mixed reactions from Sunderland fans many unhappy that the name was already associated with the home ground of S.L. Benfica. A film crew for the Premier Passions documentary series, recorded the moment that Bob Murray faced Sunderland fans immediately after the naming with many expressing their disappointment. The similarity to the name of Benfica's home, Estádio da Luz, often anglicised to The Stadium of Light, has led to some visiting fans and reporters to erroneously assume that Sunderland's home was named after the Portuguese stadium. Murray revealed that shortly after the stadium opened he was approached by a representative of the Labour government asking if he would consider renaming the stadium after Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in September 1997. Murray refused the request as he believed the stadium should be named in honour of those in the region who had worked in darkness.
The 'Of Light' suffix became a recognisable part of the Sunderland A.F.C. brand, and was used in a number of other areas related to the club; the Academy of Light is the club's training facility and youth academy, the Foundation of Light is a registered charity affiliated with the club and the Beacon of Light is a sports and education centre, owned by the Foundation, which is adjacent to the stadium. The club's official magazine was called Legion of Light before it was discontinued in January 2017.
In March 2010, Sunderland Chairman Niall Quinn announced the club were considering plans to sell naming rights to the stadium as a new way to boost income. The plans were shelved shortly after. The possibility of selling the naming rights was floated again by chief executive Margaret Byrne in 2013. Discussing the options of selling the stadium name in October 2018, chairman Stewart Donald said: I think the fans should have a say on whether they are comfortable with it. My gut feel is that even if we didn't consult with them, the vibe I get is that they aren't particularly attached to the name of the stadium. It's not a sacred thing like some of the other grounds.