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AFC Business, the commercial arm of AFC Bournemouth, has celebrated its tenth anniversary with a Christmas lunch for 180 businesspeople at the Premier League club’s Vitality Stadium.
Launched in 2009 when the Cherries were bottom of League 2 and had just come out of administration, AFC Business has flourished alongside the football club’s rise to elite league status.
The free-to-join business club now has almost 1,800 members and is the engine for all the club’s commercial activities.
AFC Bournemouth commercial director Rob Mitchell said: “I am really proud and delighted that AFC Business has reached 10 years – and it is getting stronger.
“We are a long way from 2009 when I was working alone in the commercial department and we had lost a lot of connections with the business community.
“I believed a new business club was a great opportunity for the football club to reconnect with business, bring people into a fantastic venue, showcase our hospitality and facilities and secure support, partnerships and sponsorships with companies.”
He added: “Our roots, focus and commitment to the community, through the Community Sports Trust, or business connections haven’t changed at all. If anything, they have grown and become more important.
“Thank you to the businesses who have supported the football club since those League 2 days. Our strategy won’t change – it is very important that we celebrate the business community that we have got and keep those connections as strong as we possibly can.
“We have grown and there are now bigger brands which are interested in supporting us, but our roots are vital and our priority is with the local business community, people who have supported us through difficult days.”
One such firm is chartered accountants and business advisers Hill Osborne, which sponsored its first AFC Bournemouth match back in 1991.
Richard Osborne, director and die-hard Cherries fan since 1965, said: “Backing the business club was a natural progression for us – and sponsorship has certainly worked. We have all grown together in this club and made excellent long-term constructive relationships with businesses and professional people.”
Rob Mitchell said AFC Bournemouth was continuing to look at ways of developing the business club, refreshing the events programme, delivering even better networking opportunities and ensuring businesses were getting full value for membership.
He added: “We don’t stop here – we continue to grow and develop what we are doing commercially. These are exciting times and I am looking forward to the future.”
Rob Mitchell and Richard Osborne were speaking as part of a Q&A session hosted by Paul Kinvig, chief executive of Bournemouth Town Centre BID at the celebratory lunch.