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Page last updated at 13:53 GMT, Friday, 8 October 2010 14:53 UK

Bedlington Terriers claim unexpected financial lift

Robert Rich Jr
Rich Jr owns three professional baseball sides in the United States

Northern League club Bedlington Terriers say they have been given a sponsorship boost from American billionaire Robert Rich Jr.

The club maintain that Rich, 69, bought the title of Lord Bedlington and having researched the area, opted to show his support for the club financially.

"He's the main sponsor, with the home and away strips," Terriers chairman Dave Holmes told BBC Newcastle.

"It's given us a lot of hope for the future, a stable base to build on."

Rich, who is number 488 on the current Forbes world rich list and owns the Rich Products food manufacturing firm set up by his father, has sporting connections in the United States with ownership of the baseball teams Buffalo Bisons, Northwest Arkansas Naturals and Jamestown Baseball Incorporated.

And Holmes and the club are hoping to cash in on a merchandising deal with Rich's sporting interests to market the brand in the US.

"He's going to sell all of our replica clothing on his corporate clothing program, and also at the baseball stadiums and the franchises that they operate on," Rich added.

He met the local people, supporters, the committee and was very impressed with the enthusiasm of people here

Bedlington chairman Dave Holmes

"Also, because he's well-known in charitable circles, he's got a lot of contacts within the Bedlington Terriers dog clubs, of which there are several thousand in America, and he's going to make us a cult following selling all of the clothing and the memorabilia which we currently market.

"The sale of the clothing in America really is an unknown, but there will be income there which is sustainable and for the long term."

Rich has even visited Terriers' Welfare Park home, taking in a game on a recent trip to the North East.

"He came up when we had a home game against Dunston UTS, he brought his whole family, grandchildren, wife, he came to the ground and watched the game," Holmes added.

"He met the local people, supporters, the committee and was very impressed with the enthusiasm of people here.

"I think that was the main thing that gave him the encouragement to want to develop further aspects of help."

Bedlington are currently third in Northern League Division One, the eighth tier of English football.

Their most famous achievement came in 1998-99 when they were FA Vase finalists, losing to Tiverton Town at Wembley.

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