In August, the Darlington-based Sharks had to raise a minimum of £50,000 or be forced to withdraw from the Allianz Premier 15s. In response, the club launched an emergency crowdfunding campaign and thanks to incredible support from the local community raised over £32,000 in just a few days.
Vodafone then stepped in with a front-of-shirt sponsorship deal. This enabled the club to confirm their place in this season’s league and to invest the full crowdfunding amount to be diverted towards the continued growth of the club.
The partnership forms part of a broader commitment from Vodafone to support women’s rugby, both on and off the pitch. This includes existing partnerships with the Welsh Rugby Union and Armed Forces Women’s Rugby Team. Vodafone will be working with all three teams to help grow the women’s game, whether that’s providing business support to help grassroots clubs run more efficiently, expanding participation initiatives, developing talent pipelines, or using Vodafone technology to upgrade elite clubs’ sports science capabilities.
As the only fully amateur side in the Allianz Premier 15s and the only topflight team in the North East of England, DMP Sharks are a vital part of the local community, as shown by the amazing response to the crowdfunding initiative. The funds raised will allow them to cover vital expenses such as travel, accommodation and medical fees.
The Vodafone sponsorship also extends to support of the club’s junior teams. This will help develop the club’s elite talent pipeline, as well as provide much-needed opportunities for kids in the local community to stay active and get involved the sport.
Mackenzie Thomas-Roberts, Sharks Co-Captain, said: “It was really emotional, but seeing the fans and the local community get behind us was incredible. We even had young girls who were prepared to sell their jerseys to help raise money for the team. These are the players that we want to inspire, and we hope that one day they will come and play for us.”
Mark Luffman, Sharks Coach, said: “You can’t put it into words. We have had quite a tough start from the beginning of preseason, and it has been amazing to have funding from Vodafone. Their financial support is crucial to our mentality and professionalism going forward. We want to be at the forefront of the premiership and now with backing from Vodafone and the local community it is only going to push us to achieve more.”
Max Taylor, Vodafone Chief Commercial Officer, said: “We’re delighted to support the DMP Sharks as part of our long-term commitment to women’s sport in the UK, building on our existing partnerships with the Welsh Rugby Union and the Armed Forces Women’s Rugby Team and following our role on the Women’s Lions feasibility steering group. The passion and commitment shown by everyone at the club, as well as in the local community, over the last few months has been truly inspiring. We are looking forward to an exciting season ahead.”