Diamonds Fan raises £1,200 GoFundMe Shirt Sleeve Sponsorship dedicated to The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
We have a new shirt sleeve sponsor CALM the Campaign Against Living Miserably through a GoFundMe fundraising campaign organised by fan Mike Paul, and which has recently raised the full £1,200 sponsorship amount. It is a remarkable story as organiser Mike Paul is not from Northamptonshire, indeed he never seen Rushden & Diamonds nor AFC Rushden & Diamonds play!
AFC Rushden & Diamonds Chairman Ralph Burditt told afcdiamonds.com “I am incredibly grateful for Mike’s support of the Club during this time of need and to all those who donated to his campaign. I also really like what Mike is doing with his Twitch streaming, which is so much more than it seems on the surface thanks to the story and characters which he has built on top of Football Manager. There is also an online community around the stream which is something that can be very important to people during times like these. When speaking to Mike, I was pleased to find that just like AFC R&D he is also a supporter of CALM and hence the whole thing came together naturally.”
Commercial Director John Gregory told the club website “I have apologised to Mike as I initially questioned who this person raising funds for the Club was and why did we not officially know about it? Unbeknown to me he had been in contact with Ralph, and once the story became clear, it has become inspirational to me as an example of the reach of our Community Club name and values; enough for me to donate myself. To be fair Mike’s plan to GoFundMe the loss of our Main Sponsor quickly changed a more realistic target of Shirt Sleeve Sponsorship. The tie up with the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is such a good cause to promote at this time. I asked Mike to write his own AFCRD Fundraising Story, which I hope you find as extraordinary and interesting as I have.”
For more information about The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) please check out their website www.thecalmzone.net
AFCRD Fundraising Story – Mike Paul
My involvement with the mighty Diamonds is fairly recent, dating back to January 2019. I was on Twitter one afternoon reminiscing with hundreds of other football fans about a management game lots of us used to play in our youths: Championship Manager 2001/02. It’s a title packed full of emotion and memories of winning titles with now-immortal players; the likes of Taribo West, Cherno Samba and Tonton Zola Moukoko seem to immediately spring to mind if you’re a football fan in your late 30s or early 40s!
The online conversation was so passionate and brimming with nostalgia that I decided to start writing a regular column detailing my adventures back into the world of CM01/02. When deciding which team to pick, there was only one that stood out to me: Rushden & Diamonds. Just promoted to Division Three for the first time and with a good £6m in the bank, they seemed like the perfect side to take all the way to the top. I also did my best to fully, honestly and sympathetically represent not only the club, but Irthlingborough, Nene Park, and all the surrounding areas. I did my research, walked around the town on Google Street View more times than I can remember, and did my best to shout out as many local businesses as I could along the way. Vince, if you’re reading, I’ll be visiting your Fish Bar as a priority the moment I step foot in Irthlingborough.
Over the course of seven or so real-life months and 94 full episodes, my readers and I took the mighty Diamonds all the way to the Premier League and gave a pretty good account of ourselves, picking up heroic players of all shapes and sizes and seeing our hearts regularly broken along the way. Even digital football has its moments. In fact, I wrote so much and so often for the series that I’d argue I spent more time living in virtual Irthlingborough than I did in my real-life apartment.
Sadly, at that point, the series was lost to the computer gods as my laptop suffered a critical failure and my hard drive was wiped – taking my save game files, and the by-then monikered Diamond Geezers, with it. It was devastating to lose something that had become so very dear to me, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of words I’d written.
By that time, fortunately for me, I’d gathered a reasonable following for the series from an incredibly dedicated, wonderful group of fans I cheerfully refer to as “The Ultras”. There must be around a thousand or so people who were kicking every ball with me throughout the series, and the way it all disappeared with the insertion of a wayward USB cable didn’t seem right. After that, I wrote another series based in Spain called Los Coladeros. It’s on hiatus at the moment but will resume soon, and has been enormous fun – but if I’m honest, it can never reach the heights of the original Diamond Geezers. There will always be a sense of what could have been.
Fast forward to March 2020. Basically, the entire world is in lockdown and people are now self-isolating at home, with regular football off the menu. Given that I live in Spain and we’re not allowed outside anyway, I decided it was time to revive the Diamond Geezers, but this time we’d do it live on Twitch, and we’d move forward. Rushden and Diamonds were gone – not just my digital version, but the real-life version which folded in 2011. I fired up the newer – but still old – Football Manager 2012, which starts at the beginning of the 2011/12 season, and took over one of England’s newest football clubs: AFC Rushden & Diamonds.
I got in touch with Ralph Burditt pretty much as soon as we got the series kicked off to make sure he knew what I was doing. By this point I felt a strong affiliation with the Diamonds and wanted to ensure he knew the whole thing was being done with great respect and admiration for the football club. Luckily Ralph gave us his blessing, and also told me that the club was trying to raise funds to replace the lost match-day income due to the ongoing pandemic. I encouraged my viewers to visit the AFCRD club shop and buy whatever they could afford, and while between us we bought four or five shirts and more bobble hats than I was expecting, it clearly wasn’t enough. Days later, it was announced that the club had lost its main shirt sponsor for the 2020/21 season, and was in serious danger of folding.
I didn’t feel like I could continue having a great old laugh managing AFC Rushden & Diamonds on the internet while the real-life club was struggling. So, I spoke to my viewers and readers about it, and it was suggested that we start a GoFundMe to try to replace the lost shirt sponsorship for the 2020/21 season. Ralph then suggested to me that my original total of almost £20k might be a little ambitious – can’t blame a guy for trying – so we agreed that I’d instead try to rouse people to cover the £1,200 the club needed for shirt sleeve sponsorship.
I also decided, after chatting with Ralph, to donate the sleeve sponsorship position on the kits to CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably – in the event that we reached our target amount. I’m delighted to be able to say that, thanks to some incredibly generous individuals, we reached our £1,200 goal in just nine days. It was a phenomenal gesture from the football community, and as a result, the CALM logo will be proudly displayed on the sleeve of AFCRD next season, plus the two season tickets that also come as part of the sponsorship package will be donated to the local community.
At the time of writing, the Twitch series is ongoing, and rolling along fantastically. We’re top of the Blue Square Premier and look good for promotion to League Two. We’re moving into a fancy new stadium at the end of the season, and Ralphie B still sits in the chairman’s office.
The fundraiser is also still going strong. Since we reached our goal, I’ve had many people reach out to me asking if they can still donate, so with that in mind, I’ve extended our target amount to £1,560 – the extra £360, if we make it, will also pay to sponsor the first team’s warm up tops. All monies that are donated to the GoFundMe will be forwarded to the club, so anyone who’s thinking of donating – please do. Everything you can offer helps this fantastic football club to stay afloat during these incredibly difficult times.
As soon as the travel ban is over and the new season starts, I’ll be buying a flight from Valencia to London and then a train ticket to Rushden to watch the lads play – and I’ll wear my home shirt proudly among the fans in the Peter de Banke Terrace. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there, and maybe even for a pint in Crosskeys afterwards!
The fundraiser will be open until the end of May, and can be found here:
If you’re interested in finding out more about my written series, there’s a link below:
You can find me on Twitter @mikepaulvox
And if you want to join us on the live streams of AFCRD’s assault on the English professional leagues, tune in every day at 1pm (UK):
Some people in the chat have said it’s even better than real football. Are they delusional? Decide for yourself!