When Lance Bradley, MD of Mitsubushi Motors (UK) and an avid collector of sports memorabilia was looking for something that would allow him to give something back, he couldn’t find a cause that peeked his interest; that was until he received a letter from Gina Long, asking him for his help…
The rest is history so they say, and Lance is now the Chairman of Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Campaign which aims this year to raise £1 million for organisations that help tackle the big ‘C’.
“My involvement in the campaign started with the first online auction in 2011” Lance explained.
“I am an avid and lifelong Newcastle fan and I have great admiration and love for Sir Bobby Robson. Gina, the founder of the campaign, had written to me, as well as a number of CEO’s and MD’s of businesses and organisations around the UK. She asked me whether I would consider donating a prize for the online auction she was running, to raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.”
Lance was the first to reply and donated a prize of VIP tickets and hospitality at the Badminton Horse Trials.
However, Gina wasn’t to know that Lance also collected sports memorabilia, especially anything surrounding his first love, Newcastle United.
“Although I am from Plymouth, I have been a fan of the team since 1974. I was nine years old and I watched the cup final on the TV and they lost to Liverpool 3-0. I don’t know whether I was attracted because they were the underdog, but it started a full blown romance with the club, that has lasted for four decades!”
“I have around 25 signed football and shirts rugby shirts. My favourites are the Newcastle shirts signed by Sir Bobby, Gary Speed and Craig Bellamy, as well as a rugby shirt worn and signed by Jim Hamilton, when he played for Scotland against the All Blacks. Any match worn shirt is highly prized. New signed shirts are easy to get hold of and their value is low, unless of course they are signed by someone like Sir Bobby who is no longer with us.”
The story of Lance’s involvement in the 2011 auction didn’t end after he donated his prize however. Intrigued by what was being labelled “the best footy auction ever”, he kept visiting the website and viewing the auction prizes that were being uploaded on a daily basis. Then, just before the auction went live, Lance switched on BBC Breakfast and saw Gina and Lady Elsie Robson on the sofa being interviewed, about an auction prize that had just been donated by Jose Mourinho; his FIFA Ballon D’Or 2010 World Coach of the Year Award Trophy.
“As I saw Gina holding that trophy, I decided there and then, that I wanted to bid for it. It was so unique, as well as being a total ‘one-off’. The award is only made once a year for a start and it was
Jose, probably the most flamboyant and charismatic manager ever. Therefore, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to own that trophy.”
“When the auction went ‘live’, I kept an eye on what was happening and if I needed to, I would creep off and place a bid. Things didn’t get really busy until 6pm on the last Sunday of the auction. I set an upper limit I wasn’t going to go over and then promptly went 30% over that! The most frantic activity went on about 30 minutes before closing at 8pm and the nerves were on edge until I realised I had won and the trophy was mine.”
As well as the FIFA Ballon D’or, Lance also secured three other auction lots; a Newcastle shirt signed by Gary Speed, a signed photo of Faustino Asprilla scoring against Barcelona in the Champion’s League in 1997, plus tickets for the Wales V Scotland six nations rugby union match in 2012.
“I actually went to the rugby match on 14th February, and took my girlfriend Heather, now my wife to the match in Cardiff, telling her I had somewhere nice to take her for Valentine’s Day. It must have been OK, as she still agreed to marry me” he laughed.
“All the lots were tremendous value for money, as well as being quite special in their own way. Heather knew I was going to bid for the FIFA Ballon D’or and I did manage to keep how much I paid for it a secret from her, until we bought our new house last year and I had to name the trophy and its value on the insurance policy.”
“The prize was sent to me by secure courier and when Gina found out I was such a great Newcastle fan, she arranged for me to go up to Newcastle United FC, as guests for the day and Lady Elsie and Andrew Robson presented the trophy to me on the pitch at half-time.”
“It was a great day; we had a tour of the stadium and dinner in one of the club restaurants. We also sat in the Director’s Box and I sat behind Sir Bobby Charlton.”
Lance’s involvement with the Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough Campaign came at just the right time for him and he recalls why he wanted to do more.
“I have been MD of Mitsubishi Motors (UK) for four years and was Sales & Marketing Director for ten years prior to that. As you progress, your perspective changes and I found myself wanting to do something for charity. I had recently got divorced and had also lost my stepfather, Gordon to cancer. He reminded me of Bobby and they had cancer at the same time. They also shared similar character traits; they were liked by everyone, but both could never remember people’s names! They looked a little bit alike as well. When Gordon passed away, it affected me quite a lot and still does, so I wanted to start giving back.”
“When I bought the trophy and Gina approached me to become Chairman of the campaign committee, it ticked all the boxes and I was pleased and honoured to be invited.”
Lance heads up an impressive list of names that sit on the Sir Bobby’s Breakthrough committee. There is a mixture of business people like Paul Milsom, owner of Milsom Hotels, Austin Cornish from Bury Developments, Deborah Cadman OBE, CEO of Suffolk County Council, David Bushnell, MD of Enable IT and David Sheepshanks CBE, Chairman of St George’s Park. Along with sports personalities such as Graeme Swann, Mick Mills MBE and Alan Brazil, there is also Mark Robson, son of Sir Bobby and sports journalist, Nick Harris, EADT editor, Terry Hunt and presenter, Chris Hollins.
“The committee is impressive and among us all, we are able to provide Gina with the support she needs to drive the campaign forward. In addition, Adam Clark, MD of Green Spark Productions and Project Director on the committee, takes responsibility for the organisation of the Black Tie Ball and works with Gina to make it the event of the year in Suffolk.”
“My role as Chairman involves me introducing people to the campaign from the business world that were outside the sporting circle that Gina had already effectively built up. I also bring business experience at director level within a global organisation and know the language and approach that is required to get people to sit up and listen.”
One big success of the campaign this year has been getting BT Sport onboard as the campaign’s headline supporter. In a deal, that covers the next five years’ BT Sport has greeted the campaign as a great sport-related charity, that not only pays homage to a well-loved and respected figure in the footballing world, but also raises money for a cause that many people have been touched by.
“I am proud to say that I played my part in securing BT Sport’s support. I wrote the business case and was able to use my experience to advice the team on how to best present papers and reports in a language that is understood by business and gets them to respond.”
But, what about this year’s auction which runs from10th to 27th October?
“I have already registered to bid on the web site www.sirbobby’sbreakthrough.com and I have also donated a prize and encouraged my business colleagues, friends and family to donate a prize to the online auction. Personally, I have my eye on the limited edition small scale bronze Sir Bobby statue, donated by Tom Maley.”
With a cheeky glint in his eye, he finished by saying: “However, if Newcastle United FC offered to list me as a squad player for the season; that would probably be something that I just couldn’t resist and who knows what I might bid to get my hands on that prize!”