Most U.S. billionaires investing in English soccer target Premier League clubs like Manchester United or Liverpool but Robert Rich, the world’s 448th richest man, has opted to help Bedlington Terriers.
The amateur club, which plays to crowds of about 100 people in the north east, is a world away from the glitzy millionaire lifestyle of the county’s top teams and players.
Speaking to Reuters from his corporate headquarters in Buffalo, New York, Rich explained: ‘I got involved because I thought I could help. They were the most under-financed and under-capitalised team in the league.
‘I know the Glazer family at Manchester United, Randy Lerner at Aston Villa and John Henry at Liverpool, but investing in a Premier League club was not for me.’
Rich’s immediate input has been to sponsor the club’s strip, ship over an electronic scoreboard from the U.S. and help with international marketing — a fanciful notion for a Northern League side.
‘We can do that for them, and hopefully they will start to be competitive and move up the leagues. I went to a match there this year and felt a real kinship with the club.’
Club secretary David Collop told Sky Sports News: ‘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.”
Rich added: ‘Sport can be about local people, local pride and having a lot of fun. For all the Manchester Uniteds, San Francisco 49ers, and Texas Rangers at the top, there are hundreds of minor teams struggling along. Keeping them going is a tremendous challenge.’