TRAIN operator Merseyrail has renewed its sponsorship of Southport Football Club, following the deal that was first struck four year ago. This makes the Merseyrail and Southport FC alliance one of the longest standing partnerships in English football.Southport FC’s community director, Haydn Preece, together with Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, Merseyrail’s managing director, made the announcement at the Vanarama National League match against Kidderminster Harriers at the last fixture of the season.Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, said: ‘After four very successful years during which the two organisations collaborated on a vast array of community projects, we are keen to continue our sponsorship arrangement with Southport Football Club. Merseyrail is committed to supporting the communities we serve, and we have been very impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm that the club has shown in its work with local people and organisations.’The initial sponsorship in 2012 involved renaming the Haig Avenue ground the Merseyrail Community Stadium and put a strong emphasis on community engagement. Since then, the club has done lots of work with people of various ages and backgrounds in the area, holding a wide range of events at the stadium, from baby ballet to the award-winning Merseycare/NHS Thanks for the Memories initiative for older people suffering memory problems. As part of the new arrangement, the stadium will keep the Merseyrail name and the club will continue to prioritise social cohesion.Since 2003, Merseyrail staff have raised more than £700,000 for local charities, mainly through its charity of the year initiative. Almost two third of stations have been station adopted, meaning that local volunteers give their time to make them more pleasant, welcoming environments. The company has also created a musical platform for young people, called the Merseyrail Sound Station, and along with Bootle Football Club, have set up football teams for women and girls.