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Bisons Baseball Goes Soccer

Bob Rich's Bedlington Terriers coming to Buffalo

When the 70-year-old billionaire owner of a AAA baseball team sponsors a British soccer franchise, you know it’s just a matter of time before he is going to showcase his newfound property to the folks back home.

As was first reported in Artvoice last fall, Bisons owner Bob Rich has himself a soccer team. This isn’t some powerhouse in the English Premier League, mind you. They are called the Bedlington Terriers. They play in the ninth tier of professional soccer over in the United Kingdom, participating in a system where teams are promoted or relegated up and down among leagues depending on their position in the standings. Playing in the country’s Northern League, the Terriers draw crowds of about 100 and generate gate receipts of £300.

An avid sports enthusiast, Rich fell in love with the team when he traced his ancestral roots to the Northumberland region in England and found the soccer team. Their jerseys are now emblazoned with the familiar Rich’s red logo. Thanks in part to Rich, their stadium is receiving enhancements and new amenities such as a scoreboard.

And now the Bedlington Terriers are heading here, as they will participate in a “friendly,” an exhibition soccer match against the FC Buffalo Blitzers, a team now in the second year of its existence and co-owned by WECK radio personality Nick Mendola.

This tour is already receiving some buzz, as the Terriers will play two exhibitions in the United States, against the Erie Admirals and here in Buffalo. The date here is set for Wednesday, June 29, at 6:30pm at All High Stadium, with tickets going for $10 for adults and $5 for youngsters, and are now on sale at the Bisons ticket office and online at

Mendola approached Rich during the offseason, after an article ran in the New York Times showcasing Rich’s newfound love for soccer. This prompted a slew of emails and inquiries from FC Buffalo supporters, suggesting that the team reach out to Rich for his support. “He wanted to test our legitimacy. This 10-minute meeting lasted almost an hour,” says Mendola. From there the idea of bringing Bedlington to come visit Buffalo took off.

The visit will involve more than just the match, as Bedlington officials will also visit and tour all of Rich’s three minor league ball clubs, and receive a tutorial in all aspects of sports management and operations. In addition, the Terriers will be welcomed and feted at the Bisons’ July 3 Independence Day game.

For FC Buffalo, this event represents a huge opportunity to find its footing in a market where hardcore soccer support is growing. “What we want to stress is that this game is important to us for the exposure and what an opportunity it presents to differentiate ourselves from other men’s leagues and teams,” Mendola says. “We want to connect with fans who went to Blizzard games and to Stallions games. We’re providing a venue for soccer fans to come out of the closet, so to speak.”

For the Bedlington team, there is now talk about a movie involving an American tycoon who falls in love with a soccer team. There is some interest from British officials in attending the match, and Mendola reports that the sole Brit on the FC Buffalo roster, forward Mike Unwin, is especially excited about the event.

So what can fans attending expect to experience that is out of the ordinary from a typical FC Buffalo game day? “How about two anthems, for starters,” Mendola says. The tour is also attracting national media attention, with outlets such as BBC, CNN, and ABC providing some coverage and perhaps coming to town for the event as well.

“Bob wanted them to come to Buffalo,” says Mendola. “It will be a great night.”

The FC Buffalo motto is “For Our City.” A great night indeed.

Around the Bases

• On the recent Bisons road trip, Valentino Pascucci and Jesus Feliciano made their impressions. Since May 10, Pascucci has been one of the hottest hitters in the league, hitting .329 with eight doubles, five home runs, and 12 runs scored. Meantime, Feliciano was a hot .500 on the road trip, and is hitting a .301 for road games.

• The Bisons have gotten some pitching help from the New York Mets, as starter Pat Misch and reliever Mike O’Connor have been returned to the Bisons after spending some time with the big club. Misch was added to the starting rotation on the recent road trip.

• Lucas Duda has also been hot since coming off the disabled list on May 27, posting two doubles, five home runs, and nine RBI during that span.

• For you Stars Wars geeks: This Saturday is Stars Wars night at the ballpark. The Bisons will wear special jerseys for the event, and characters in movie garb will do battle in the concourses and then on the field after the game. Game time is 7:05pm against the Columbus Clippers.

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