A TINY non-league North East football club is forging a world-wide reputation after becoming the subject of a prestigious American newspaper story.
Staff at Bedlington Terriers FC in Northumberland were stunned to see a picture of their players tussling for the ball on the front page of the iconic New York Times last week.
The article appeared after The Journal broke the story of how American billionaire Robert Rich is sponsoring the side after tracing his roots back to the Bedlington area.
And since then, club secretary David Collop’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing. And neither has the club’s cash register.
Merchandise has been flying off the virtual shelves of the Northern League side’s online shop, with thousands of pounds worth of orders coming in from around the world.
The Terriers have noticed their fan base has gone global, too, seeing inquiries coming from all sorts of far-flung places.
Previously, club officials could expect to sell one shirt a week or, on a very good week, up to two or three items from their range including car stickers, pendants and pin badges.
But in one three day period alone, the club sold a thousand pounds worth of merchandise – and it’s no longer just going to South East Northumberland. One day last week they had 14 sales with a further 15 inquiries.
Mr Collop said: “We’re noticing the difference in sales in the web shop. We’re starting to get orders in from the States.
“Sometimes we’d sell a shirt a week. The other day we had 14 sales and 15 inquiries. It’s become big news!
“Every penny is a help because it’s a hand to mouth existence in the Northern League. You have corner shops with adverts in the programme and boards in the ground, and if it wasn’t for those, a lot of clubs wouldn’t get by.”
Things will be picking up even more soon, as Mr Rich has got top New York design firm One Source to revamp the product range.
He will also be selling the products through his baseball stadia once the season starts.
A lot of merchandise has gone to America, including a car sticker to Texas, since the New York Times piece, but the club has also sent merchandise to Australia and Scandinavia.
He said: “It went absolutely worldwide. But the main thing is to secure the future of the football club.
“Once he gets his marketing company involved and the baseball season kicks off, we expect it to go up.
“Once work gets done we can look at improving our position in the football pyramid system. We can look to get to Blyth Spartans’ level – that’s the hope for the future.
“My biggest dream would be to see us walk out as a Football League club.”
Sometimes we’d sell a shirt a week. The other day we had 14 sales and 15 inquiries. It’s become big news!