A BUSINESS leader has urged football fans to “dig deep” when two North-East hospices team up for the first time in a unique match of the day.

Financial services company Ramsdens is Middlesbrough Football Club’s regular shirt sponsor but is making way for tomorrow’s match against Reading so that Butterwick Hospice and Teesside Hospice form a twin strike force.

Ramsdens chief executive Peter Kenyon first approached the club last November with the idea of swapping “Ramsdens Currency” for the name of the two hospices on the shirt as a one-off, followed by a sportsman’s dinner a week later.

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Talks were held with the charities and Saturday’s home game at The Riverside was chosen.

Mr Kenyon said: “Our goal is to raise the profile of these two amazing charities and to collect as much money as possible because they do so much for the local area.

“The club and the players could not have been more supportive so now we just need the fans to dig deep.”

Twenty volunteers will stage a bucket collection before Saturday’s match between 1-3pm.

There will also be a “text to donate” system operating on the LED screens around the ground.

A limited run of 25 shirts will be produced for the special occasion and signed by the players to raise money for the hospices.

Three will be raffled at the sportsman’s dinner at The Riverside on Saturday, February 17, and one will be auctioned. The rest will be sold on eBay.

Ramsdens, which has 127 branches around the UK, will also be selling raffle tickets at £1 each in their local shops.

Special guests at the dinner will be former Boro stars Mark Proctor, Steve Vickers and Andy Campbell.

The evening will be compered by former Premier League referee Jeff Winter and entertainment will be provided by comedian Mick Munroe.

Anne Cooling, Butterwick Hospice Corporate Partnership Manager: “We are so grateful to Peter Kenyon and Ramsdens for coming up with this exciting and unique initiative.

“It is the first time the two hospices have come together so we hope the Boro fans show their support with the generosity they are renown for.”

  • The black tie dinner starts at 7pm and tickets, costing £55 per head or £500 for a table of 10, can be obtained by contacting Anne Cooling on 01642-628934 or at annecooling@butterwick.org.uk