September came crashing through the doors with the most eagerly anticipated Old Firm Derby in years, as Rangers made the short journey across Glasgow to Celtic Park for the lunch time kick off at the beginning of the month. Although a narrow defeat wasn’t part of the plan, the men from the blue side of Glasgow showed that the hammerings from recent times have gone and the gap is narrowing. This fixture is beamed around the world at the best of times, but with Rangers being firmly back in the upper echelons of the SPFL, main shirt sponsors 32Red enjoyed massive exposure in the lead up to and fall out from Scotland’s biggest fixture……
The Betfred Super League entered the final furlong in September and St Helens were rightly handed the League Leaders Shield. The second season of The Betfred deal has seen some outstanding individual performances and non-more so than from Saints’ departing Aussie, Ben Barba. It will be interesting to see if he comes out on top in the Steve Prescott Man of Steel stakes, as he will need to be on his game as we enter the semi-finals before next month’s Grand Final, as a resurgent Wigan Warriors and John Bateman might have something to say about it.
In the World of Darts, Jasic sponsored Gerwyn Price won his first PDC tournament in two years, when he lifted the International Darts Open trophy in Riesa, Germany, after beating Simon Whitlock 8-3. After overcoming a serious achilles tendon injury, ‘The Iceman’ did well to even compete in the weeks following, but to win a tournament was an outstanding achievement. He also managed to become the inaugural ‘Sports 360 Supremo’ on the back of his outstanding victory!
The England Roses were back in action as they took part in the fifth International Quad Series out in Australia. The roses started and finished the tournament with victories over New Zealand and South Africa respectively, but unfortunately came unstuck against rivals Australia Diamonds and had to settle for a runners-up spot overall. The girls will be hoping this is just a bump in the road as they build towards the Tri-Series against Uganda, a quad series on home soil and then the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool!
We were delighted as always to take in a Huddersfield Giants game and to see their last home game of the season against Wigan made it even better. We invited friends old and new so they could see their LED branding emblazoned along the touchline and in front of the Sky Sports cameras. As much as everyone in the room enjoys their Rugby League, it was a tough watch at times and the players did really well to show even flashes of their brilliance in what were quite frankly, appalling conditions. Another Super League season done and dusted at The John Smith’s Stadium and we, along with everyone associated with the club, will be hoping the Giants can carry their second half of season form into 2019.
A potentially nail-biting night at The AJ Bell was avoided as Salford eventually ran out comfortable winners against a spirited Toulouse side that looked tired as the game wore on. The Red Devils’ Super League status was retained for another season and the second ever ‘Sports 360 Supremo,’ Jackson Hastings has played a massive part in the team’s late season revival. The man from Wollongong has quickly become a terrace favourite and when you see his wizardry first hand, you can understand why the fans have taken him to their hearts so quickly and why the club should be moving heaven and earth to keep him in Salford red. 2019 with or without Jackson Hastings could be two very different seasons.
A late-night trip down to Eastleigh was on the cards towards the end of the month, as we installed new ‘Manarama’ branding for National League Title Sponsors Vanarama. Their month-long re-brand in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK received great exposure in front of the LIVE BT Sport cameras as Eastleigh welcomed Dagenham and Redbridge to the Silver Lake Stadium. A hard-fought encounter was won late on by the home side, as Peter Taylor’s Daggers were blunted by a late Alex Wynter header. The ‘Manarama’ branding will be on show LIVE on BT Sport again next month, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled to find out where.
The Betfred Cup is now at semi-final stage, after Aberdeen, Rangers, Celtic and Hearts all came through tough quarter-final ties. We’re in the third season of the Scottish League Cup carrying the name of the Warrington based bookmaker and after a Rangers, Celtic semi-final occurred in year one, although it was a great deal to broker and a brilliant deal for all parties, an Old Firm Final would just be the cherry on the cake. Before we get there though, there is the small matter of ‘Semi-Final Sunday,’ where Murrayfield will host Hearts v Celtic at 1:30pm on October 28th and Aberdeen v Rangers will take place at Hampden Park at 4:30pm on the same day. Fixture congestion has handed the SPFL a headache they probably didn’t need, but as the old saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’ and although we appreciate the move has caused problems, Scottish Football is on the rise and this will do the game no harm at all.
We were at Deepdale to see Preston North End exit the Carabao Cup at the hands of fellow 32Red sponsored Middlesbrough and although PNE haven’t made a great start to the season, 32Red have come flying out of the traps, as their ‘assault’ on EFL Championship clubs pays dividends week after week. We just need The Lilywhites to find last season’s form, as we’re sure they will, and the online casino giants will have an even greater presence at the top end of the league.
September’s last stop was Boundary Park for the Football Trade Directory event and as ever we met many great people and some fantastic businesses. Networking events are generally interesting and worthwhile, but when they are held at Football Clubs, against the backdrop of the pitch, as The FTD ones invariably are, you can’t help but play out scenarios from yester year and season’s gone by, which just gives these events an edge over others……………..We even managed to sneak in ten minutes of Frankie Bunn putting the first team through their paces out on the training pitch.
September was the month everyone went ‘back to School’ and as you can see, we were hard at work ourselves. October has some exciting days in the diary already, we just hope there aren’t any spooky surprises in store.