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Sailmakers lines up as new sponsor of Ipswich Rugby Club

Sailmakers lines up as new sponsor of Ipswich Rugby Club

The new owner of Ipswich’s Sailmakers shopping centre has scored a try with the town’s rugby club by putting in much needed funds as its newest sponsor. 

Nottingham based ALB Group, which purchased Sailmakers earlier this summer, has agreed to become the main sponsor of Ipswich Rugby Football Club’s youth and junior squads for the next two seasons, with an option to remain on board for a third year.

The deal will provide kit – complete with the Sailmakers logo – to all players under 16 as well as funding other club expenses such as equipment, travel, referee fees and running the club house in Humber Doucy Lane.

It is also hoped that a ‘knock-on’ effect of promoting Sailmakers will be to encourage more people to visit the shopping mall, fulfilling ALB’s goal of tackling the causes of a struggling retail trade in the town centre.   

The decision by Nottingham-based rugby enthusiast and ALB Group managing director Arran Bailey to sponsor the club was the result of a few happy coincidences.

Tim Lloyd, of Prime Retail, the joint marketing agent for Sailmakers, was asked by ALB to seek a potential sports team in the Ipswich area for Sailmakers to sponsor.

Tim already had close ties with Ipswich Rugby Club, as a former player and director, as the parent of a current youth player and as a close friend to club chairman Mike Hancock.

Coincidentally, David Hargreaves, director of Sailmakers’ other joint commercial agent FHP, of Nottingham, played rugby with Mike Hancock when they were both students at Nottingham Trent University.  

Arran Bailey said:

“I’m a huge rugby fan and used to play a lot in my younger days, so when Tim told me Ipswich Rugby Club were seeking a new main sponsor, I couldn’t think of a better fit. 

“It’s a fantastic club, with a very long history, so we jumped at the chance to support the dozens of boys and girls in the youth and junior teams.

“I’m hoping this will also help support some of the town’s struggling high street retailers, and get more people to pop along to Sailmakers and see what we are doing to turn its fortunes around.”

Ipswich RFC is the fourth oldest open rugby club in the world, having been founded in 1870. Mostly run by volunteers, the club supports more than 20 teams, having players as young as five years old to members in their 90s.

Club chairman Mike Hancock said:

“The club would not have survived for more than 150 years without our army of volunteers – and we would not thrive without the generous support of our marvellous sponsors.

“It’s great to see a new business come into Ipswich and immediately give back to the community. This will really help the club and a lot of young players. And if it also helps to get Sailmakers shopping mall and the town centre back to its vibrant best, what a fabulous outcome that would be.”

Sailmakers, which links Tower Ramparts Bus Station and Tavern Street, has been undergoing a make-over since it was acquired by ALB in June, in an effort to fill vacant retail units. 

The property firm is encouraging traders by offering lower cost and more flexible contracts to help revitalise the town centre. It has already announced the imminent arrival of its first new tenant – Harry’s Handcrafted Doughnuts. 

Tim Lloyd, of Prime Retail, said:

"There was a good deal of synergy between Sailmakers and Ipswich RFC, as both particularly attracted lots of young families from the local area.

“The fact that there are also these lovely connections, between ALB, the club, FHP, Prime Retail, Nottingham and Ipswich, means this is a match made in heaven. Let’s hope it brings joy and success to all parties concerned.” 

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