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Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has announced he'll become a co-owner in the Rochester Rhinos, a New York-based football club hoping to earn their place in Major League Soccer.
Vardy, 34, revealed his new venture to The Athletic: “It’s really exciting,” he continues. “It’s going to be a lot different to what I’ve been used to for the last 10 years. But I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it.
“I think it kind of resonates with me because of what they’ve achieved in the past — the only lower-league club to win the US Open Cup, the only team to have ever done it who’s outside MLS (Major League Soccer). It’s all about bringing that back and trying to replicate it — but we also want to bring it back even better than it was before.”
The Rhinos have been inactive since 2017 when they participated in the United Soccer League (now the USL Championship), the second division of professional football in the United States.
Vardy has said his stake in the Rhinos is "meaningful enough share to have a seat at the table," giving some indication as to where the ex-England international envisions his future once his playing days are over.
The former Fleetwood Town forward has another two years to run on his current contract at the King Power Stadium, where he played a fundamental role in guiding Leicester to their fairytale Premier League title in 2016.
Vardy gained worldwide fandom for his route to England's top flight, climbing from the Conference to the Premier League in a little more than two years.
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Rochester's majority stakeholder David Dworkin—who purchased the club with his wife, Wendy, in 2016—said the striker's tale paralleled with theirs: “Jamie’s story and our story, and our city, they mix together so well.
"Jamie wouldn’t do well at the Beverly Hills Rhinos. That’s not him. Our first meeting, he was drinking Corona beer. I said, ‘Why Corona?’ He said, ‘It was on sale’. Here’s a guy making £10 million and he’s drinking a $3 beer because it’s on sale! That’s what we like about Jamie. There are no airs about him. What you see is what you get.”
The Dworkins also own a stake in NBA franchise the Sacramento Kings, suggesting they have experience in what it means to run a sports organisation at the elite level.
The couple are hoping to rebrand the Rhinos and move to a different facility in Rochester in time for the 2022 season, though it remains unknown as to what league they'll be playing in.
Vardy has scored 147 goals in 352 appearances for the Foxes, and he said his "main focus" is to carry on succeeding at the top level for as long as possible.
His new business partners are content in his involvement being remote for the time being, though David added Vardy's profile and investment isn't all he's adding: “Yes, Jamie brings his name and that’s great.
"But I would not be doing this, and I know my wife wouldn’t, if all he was bringing is his name on the dotted line. One thing I’ve learned about Jamie is, if you have Jamie’s focus and attention, you have his focus and attention. And if you don’t, he doesn’t give a s**t. He’s an in-or-out kind of guy. So I think that’s a big deal, that Jamie is all in.
“Certainly for Rochester, this is an opportunity for us to be super special. We have an active player who is in his prime. For us, it’s a really great way for Rochester to take pride in this team — it puts us on the map.”
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- Jamie Vardy
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