THE longest-running sports sponsorship deal in UK history will come to an end this summer as Ryman and the Isthmian League are to go their separate ways, The NLP can reveal.
Bringing to an end a 20-year relationship, Dragons Den tycoon Theo Paphitis announced the unexpected news following two decades of fantastic financial backing.
An official statement confirmed the departure of the long-term backers on Sunday but, in a boost to clubs, it is understood that a deal to secure a replacement title sponsor is around a week away.
Paphitis said: “It is with a heavy heart we pass on the baton to a new sponsor. It’s been a great honour to be associated with the Isthmian League and all the people involved, both on and off the pitch.
“Sadly, nothing lasts forever. The last 20 years as league sponsors have created some fantastic sporting memories for me personally, and also for my businesses.
“It has been a pleasure to have been associated with the league for such a long period of time as grassroots football has always been close to my heart.
“Some of the players who are playing today have only ever known it as the Ryman League. We’ve made some wonderful friends.”
Having led the way in sponsorship since securing Rothmans in 1973 as football’s first title sponsors, Paphitis stepped in with his nationwide stationers in 1997 and has sponsored the Isthmian League ever since, later adding the Ryman Youth League and Ryman Development League.
This season, clubs are playing with specially produced match balls marked with the number 20 to celebrate the sponsorship milestone.
League chairman Nick Robinson says as one door closes, another opens – but that Ryman and their unwavering support will be greatly missed.
“It is a sad day,” said Robinson, who replaced long-serving Alan Turvey in 2015. “But it is one which we knew would come sooner or later. We are very proud of the work we have done with Ryman and other companies in the Theo Paphitis Retail Group.
“Everyone associated with the sponsorship has been so supportive and the companies have been wonderful to work with over the last 20 years. We have built up great friendships and I know these will not be lost in the future.”
The Ryman League’s clubs and their fans are also looking forward to benefitting from a new six-figure matchball and benchwear sponsorship partnership with leading international sports brand Mitre from the start of the 2017-18 season.