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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Bank is a North East institution
Northern Rock branch
Northern Rock is a major North East employer
For many people in the North East of England Northern Rock is more than just a bank undergoing financial troubles.

The Newcastle-based company employs about 4,300 people at its headquarters in Gosforth, and hundreds more in branches across the region.

Sponsorship deals ensure its logo is emblazoned on the shirts of top football, rugby, cricket and basketball teams.

And its charitable foundation has given away millions of pounds to good causes.

Northern Rock began life 150 years ago as the Northern Community Fund, formed by a group of shopkeepers. In 1968, it merged with the Rock Permanent Benefit Building Society.

By the time it scrapped its building society status in October 1997, it was an amalgamation of 53 societies.

Northern Rock has shown great allegiance to the sporting fabric of the North East for many years
Sir Bobby Robson

Demutualisation also resulted in the setting up of the Northern Rock Foundation, a charity which receives 5% of its annual pre-tax profits, and has so far distributed 175m to good causes across the region.

The Northern Rock Foundation website states: "Our current objectives are to tackle disadvantage and to improve quality of life in North East England and Cumbria.

"We use a variety of tools to achieve our aims: making grants through open programmes, policy work, training and development activities, special initiatives, loans and other investments."

Beneficiaries range from groups tackling domestic violence to sporting, cultural and religious institutions.

Michael Owen celebrates a goal in his Northern Rock-sponsored Newcastle shirt
Northern Rock sponsors Newcastle United stars such as Michael Owen

Northern Rock is the main sponsor of premiership football team Newcastle United, in a deal which runs until 2010.

It also sponsors the Newcastle Falcons rugby team, championship basketball team Newcastle Eagles, and the Durham County Cricket Club.

However, the bank's North East roots has not prevented hundreds of local customers from lining up each day to remove their cash.

While some queuing outside a city centre branch on Monday expressed guilt at adding to the company's woes, the overriding concern was to protect their savings.

However, local sporting legend Sir Bobby Robson was showing some solidarity with beleaguered Northern Rock.

The Newcastle United and former England manager was planning to open an online account on Tuesday. He is prevented from visiting a branch in person by illness.

Sir Bobby described the company as a great benefactor.

He said: "All I can say is that Northern Rock has been very supportive and has shown great allegiance to the sporting fabric of the North East for many years and I feel it is only right to support them at this moment."

The projects benefitting from the Northern Rock Foundation

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