As part of a series of interviews focusing on our club sponsors, BTPL Editor Chris Thorpe recently sat down with Ryan O’Sullivan and Sarah Quartermaine from Ry to discuss the business’s involvement with the Dons and more…
What does it mean for The Ry Group as a business to be involved with AFC Wimbledon?
Ryan: When I first started going to watch Wimbledon, I used to take the 157 bus all the way from Morden to Selhurst Park, it would take me ages, but I loved going down there with my older brother.
Being a sponsor of a club that you have supported for a long time is massive for me and it is great to be able watch the Dons and see our business alongside, standing proud in the new stadium.
The sponsorship is a big achievement for me and Sarah, an accolade we take great pride in. It was an initial goal we set, and one we scored so to speak. As AFC Wimbledon grows and develops, so does The Ry Group. AFC Wimbledon’s growth has made us aim higher so that we can grow as a business to make sure that we are able to stay involved with the club both commercially and financially.
It is brilliant that AFC Wimbledon as a club have kept a lot of the core aspects that made Kingsmeadow special in this new ground at Plough Lane. Being able to secure another big sponsorship deal again with Wimbledon is absolutely amazing.
Like most football clubs and businesses (as a whole), ourselves and Wimbledon have had a series of hurdles that we have had to clear this year. Particularly from our perspective, with a lot of our work being domestic (either inside people’s homes or offices etc). We have been trying to adapt accordingly to ensure our workload did not stop.
We have managed to keep things ticking over as a business as best as we can, we made the decision that (although the sponsorship was a big commitment in this current climate) the relationship with the club is something special that we had to maintain and support.
Fingers crossed this year more and more supporters become aware of our brand, our commitment to the club and our future plans.
We are currently sat here in what will be the control room at Plough Lane opposite the stand that you sponsor as a business. It is going to be packed out with Wimbledon supporters at some stage. What would you say are the main benefits that you guys can offer them in terms of incentives etc?
Ryan: We will look after Wimbledon fans! When a Womble rings us, we really appreciate it as we also do our best to support local based businesses.
We aim to provide the very best service for our customers, offering true value for money, whether that is smaller reactive jobs related to Gas, Plumbing, Heating, Electrics, Drainage, Carpentry, Painting & Decorating, Building or more complex planned works. We aim to cater to everyone’s needs. Our motto is “Do It The Ry Way” and that is exactly what we do! We strive to be known as Your Local Trusted Tradesmen, as the trade world can be a daunting experience for a non-professional.
Sarah: We also offer Wimbledon fans a discounted rate on any of our reactive services (we have further details displayed on our website). As the season progresses, we will look to put on some special discounts that will be advertised within the Matchday Magazine!
Make sure to keep an eye out for those as we move forward!
I think an important thing to mention is all the tradespeople that are part of the Ry Team are locally born and bred, along with working at Ry full time! We would not have anyone in our team that we would not send to our own family’s house.
I think people forget sometimes about just how much talent and skill there is required within the trade industry, it really takes a company years of defining their services to become great in whichever field they specialise in.
I have been reliably informed by Ivor Heller that your journey with the club as a sponsor began during a meeting back at Merton Abbey Mills. Is that right?
Ryan: Yes, that is correct, Ivor gave me a ridiculous quote for a one-page website if I remember rightly (laughs)! Just going back over that, I called Ivor about developing a website and to talk about branding for the business (as I knew he worked in that industry and obviously could produce logos etc).
This would have been over 12 years ago easily now. From that stage the business began to develop from there after starting out as something of a one-man band.
From then I enquired about a sponsorship opportunity, logging my interest should one arise.
Sarah came on board back in 2013 and that is when we became more of a brand as opposed to being on a small scale.
Sarah: One thing I would like to add to that, if anyone knows Ryan, he said that he spoke to Ivor and Pietro (Palladino) about sponsorship. He probably rang them about 300 times until they could not handle it anymore. His persistence has always been one of his best business qualities.
Lastly, do you prefer being a business owner or a Wimbledon player? As I’m led to believe you were previously on our books in a playing capacity Ryan?
Ryan: That’s right, I was previously at Wimbledon, then I went to Brentford and then I left there and joined up with AFC Wimbledon after the club reformed. I remember my first game for AFC Wimbledon, it was against Tooting and Mitcham. I was playing right wing back in a team that included the likes of Keith Ward and Lewis Taylor, Lewis was sort of the only youngster in that team in those days.
This was before we had any sort of youth team set up at the club and that was that really. After leaving Brentford I wanted to get back into playing for a professional club as soon as possible.
In the next year, there was a set up that was formed, which had Nicky English and Keith Ward as the management team, I then had a year of trying to break into the first team.
I think I was probably a bit too young and probably should have been a bit more patient, but it was good to attempt to climb the ladder again none the less.
(Laughs) We cannot go into my playing days in too much depth as I remember playing in the sponsors game at Kingsmeadow. Ivor got subbed off for me and he was annoyed (laughs) – Ivor was like Cinderella, he kept missing the ball!
It must be quite romantic for you to have gone from travelling on the 157 bus to watch Wimbledon at Selhurst Park, to playing for the club and now sponsoring it?
Ryan: Yeah absolutely! I think if you speak to anyone in football, no one would have a bad thing to say about AFC Wimbledon, so many people have a great deal of love for them just because of what they have achieved and how they have done it.
You know, for me it is a very easy decision to carry on supporting this club with the sponsorship. Even when I left the club as a player there was no bitterness there, you simply cannot feel anything bad towards this club – it is as simple as that.
This club was started by four individuals in a room which Ivor has spoken about, that alone is just incredible, it needs to be put on tv!
Seeing the new stadium, it is ludicrous to think about where we have come from. I believe we will progress further, before long we are going to be needing to expand these three temporary stands for sure!