Yeah, we had to read this headline a few times too, but Jamie Vardy is indeed the new co-owner of the Rochester Rhinos.
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The historic lower-league side have been on a four-year hiatus as the 1999 U.S. Open Cup champions and four time USL champions have been planning for their relaunch since 2017.
Vardy will now be having a party in Western New York, as the Leicester City legend will help lead them into a new era as the team will rebrand and begin play in 2022.
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The Premier League winner will not retire from playing and in a statement released by the Rhinos, they confirmed that they are looking forward to welcoming Vardy into their ownership group.
“The Rochester Rhinos are delighted to announce that Premier League star Jamie Vardy has become a co-owner of the club. The Leicester City striker has bought a minority stake and is excited by the prospect of being part of a journey that puts the Rhinos and Rochester back on the map after a four-year hiatus.
“This is a huge coup for Rochester and the Rhinos. Jamie is known throughout the soccer world and we are delighted that he has chosen to join us as a co-owner. Hopefully this fantastic news, will give everyone connected with the club the belief that there are good times ahead.”
Vardy to make Rochester dream again
David and Wendy Dworkin took over the Rhinos in 2016 (they are also co-owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings) and are delighted to get Vardy on board, as the Leicester City star thanked his current team for allowing him to buy the stake and start this new adventure while he is still playing in the Premier League.
“I’m really excited to be part of the Rhinos,” Vardy said. “I’ve been looking at opportunities in the United States for a while, but there was something about Rochester and the Rhinos that just felt right. I love the story of the U.S. Open Cup win, and although the club has been through some difficult years since, in a way that makes this more appealing to me.
“Once I started speaking to David and Wendy – and we’ve had so many conversations via video calls – I could see how enthusiastic they are about the Rhinos, and I knew that I wanted to get involved and try to play a part in helping to turn things around. It won’t be easy, but I never do anything the easy way in life!”
There is no doubting the rich soccer heritage in the Rochester area and for decades the Rhinos have been seen as one of the top teams outside of MLS, and have come close to joining Major League Soccer on several occasions.
Their stadium (also used by the Western New York Flash) was one of the best in the lower leagues and this is a great opportunity to relaunch the team, with a potential new home and fresh start.
In what division they will play remains to be seen, as they’d likely want to restart back in the USL Championship but there are plenty of options for them in the lower leagues and the situation remains fluid.
Overall, this is one of those partnerships that makes sense.
Vardy gets to become an owner and plan his next steps after playing and the Rhinos get a huge boost in terms of exposure. Vardy’s connections should also see a high caliber of players heading to New York state — including from his V9 academy which gives opportunities to young non-league players in England — in the coming months and years.
If Vardy’s incredible journey as a player is anything to go by, the Rhinos fanbase can expect one heck of a ride in the next few years.