We're in the money! Lowly Bedlington Terriers dreaming of league football after receiving backing from American billionaire
Last updated at 1:54 PM on 4th November 2010
A US billionaire called Robert Rich with a love of the underdog will plough some of his fortune into lowly football team Bedlington Terriers.
The 488th richest man in the world could have followed the Glazers, Randy Lerner or John W Henry and bought a stake in the global success of the Premier League.
But instead, the chairman of the Rich Products Corporation, chose the unfashionable Northumberland side from the ninth tier of English football.
Rich beyond their wildest dreams: Bedlington's new owner Robert Rich
The 69-year-old tycoon got involved after tracing his family back to the area. His wife bought him the title Lord of Bedlington and on further investigation he became interested in the Terriers.
The American has become a shirt sponsor, has put in an undisclosed amount of cash, and gone some way to buck the image of the unpopular transatlantic owner by keeping his feet on the ground with his ambitions.
He told the Journal: 'I haven't made any promises. Having said that, I would love to see them do well and let them challenge me to increase our participation.'
He will ship a £30,000 electronic scoreboard to the homely Welfare Park ground, and is looking to turn the club shirts into a cult item for US sports fans.
For the time being, officials at the Northern League club aim to get promotion to the same level as local rivals Blyth Spartans, four tiers above them.
Club secretary David Callop said: 'In my dream of dreams I would like to see Bedlington step on to the pitch as a League Division Two side. Who knows whether that might happen?
'But we are not splashing the cash on players now, we are slowly improving our ground.'
Getting shirty: Terriers' keeper Paul Newton with the kit featuring new sponsors
He added: 'Mr Rich could have bought Manchester United or Liverpool, I would imagine. He would sooner help the underdog.'
Life for the Bedlington players is a world away from the Premier League, as all have full-time jobs and are only paid expenses.
Mr Rich's current level of backing - which includes promoting the club's shirts to his 80,000 employees - will not see the side go full-time.
Mr Callop said: 'The backing has relieved us of the immediate worries of scraping by. Even at our level, clubs can take some running.
'For a night match when we might only have 60 or so paying punters, we have to pay £50 for the floodlights and £200 for the officials.'
There had been no jealousy from other clubs, he said, but teams do raise their game against 'moneybags Bedlington', he said.
The link-up with Mr Rich, who owns three baseball teams, came out of the blue.
It's true to say our chairman thought it was a wind-up when the first phone call came through,' Mr Callop said.
'When we were told about it I was over the moon, but very sceptical at the same time.
'But this is real and he wants to help us achieve the chairman's targets which are to get the club up.'
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