English football team partners with Visit North Korea in unlikeliest of deals
In what is surely one of the most bizarre sponsorship deals ever struck, a tour operator promoting vacations and study trips to North Korea has partnered with Blyth Spartans of the UK’s National League North.
The tourism company’s pitch-side advertising board was spotted at the illustrious Croft Park stadium in Blyth, located near Newcastle upon Tyne, during a 2-all draw against the titans of Spennymoor Town FC during a Boxing Day fixture.
“Their commercial manager told me the chairman was open-minded, so it was something they were more than willing to participate in,” China-based student Tom Fowdy, who founded Visit North Korea in 2015, told the press. The deal reportedly includes links on the Spartans' website and social media accounts.
“Football sponsorship was something I felt inspired to do, and I was confident that as a well-known, local grassroots club, Blyth was the best place to start,” Fowdy, who reportedly paid the £150 sponsorship fee upfront, added.
According to its website, the tour operator’s focus is on “education, travel, cultural exchange and positive engagement” with packages costing up to £2,495 ($3,167) to visit North Korea.Also on rt.com Picture perfect: Iconic images from the world of sport in 2018
Understandably, the unlikely partnership has caused consternation among fans and online.
“We've had a few comments about possibly serving dog at the next match,” admitted Mark Scott, the club's commercial manager told The Chronicle Live.
For those that like to travel to far flung places our new @Blyth_Spartans advertiser @Visit_DPRK would love to hear from you! Thanks to @Visit_DPRK for your support and if anyone there needs a team to follow @Blyth_Spartans isn't be a bad choice 👍 pic.twitter.com/iP86GI08Q8— Mark Scott (@BSAFCCommercial) December 27, 2018
“Who am I to judge? The guy running [Visit North Korea] is going over to visit the country, not shake hands with Kim Jong-un, so we have no problem with it,” Scott added.
Britain does have an embassy in North Korea and citizens are free to travel there if they wish. Naturally, football fans were quick to poke fun at the deal online.
It wasn’t long before some caustic northern self-deprecating wit was on display either.
Blyth must be a total shithole if North Korea is considered an enticing getaway for the locals.— ETK (@sec201) December 27, 2018
I’ve never been to North Korea but I have been the Blyth, I’m not usually a betting man but I suspect Blyth makes Pyongyang look like Hawaii.— simon renwick (@simon3677) December 27, 2018
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