They’re the second oldest football club in the world. They’re firmly entrenched in the English Premier League. And now, they’re Orlando City’s newest partner.
Orlando City announced last Friday that the Club has entered into a strategic partnership with Stoke City, allowing for player loans and transfers, opportunities for friendly matches and access to each other’s scouting networks.
“If you look at the English Premier League, there’s very few clubs that have done as good a job over the last few years in recruiting as Stoke have done,” Orlando City President and Founder Phil Rawlins said.
It’s similar to the agreement City struck with Portuguese side SL Benfica back in 2014, which brought defender Rafael Ramos to Orlando. Rawlins reaffirmed that the Club’s relationship with Benfica remains strong and will be unaffected by this newest partnership.
“I’m sure this is true for [Stoke City], it’s certainly true for Orlando, we’re approached on a very regular basis by teams around the world to form a relationship,” Rawlins said. “Formalizing this relationship says to those organizations, ‘thank you but we have a partner.’ We have a partner in England that we’re very confident in and happy with.”
It should come as no surprise that the two clubs are now helping each other. Rawlins is a former shareholder of Stoke City and Lions head coach Adrian Heath made over 100 appearances for the Potters. Former Orlando City assistant coach and current OCB head coach Anthony Pulis played for the club and his father, current West Bromich Albion coach Tony Pulis, also coached Stoke City from 2002-05 and again from 2006-13. Brek Shea played for the Potters before joining Orlando City.
“The knowledge that [Rawlins] has from Stoke City and the knowledge that he’s acquired with Orlando makes him one of the most imaginative people in the game and somebody that everyone in football can learn things from,” Stoke City CEO Tony Scholes said. “I’ve been coming here for a few years and whenever Phil and I meet, we always exchange information, exchange ideas, and every time, I go back to England with something to implement at Stoke.”
This strong partnership extends beyond the pitch. The clubs have pledged to share information such as best practices, scouting information and coordinated marketing campaigns, as well as helping each other’s women’s teams.
“We’ve had a very strong but informal relationship but we thought the time was right to formalize it and invest more time, more effort to really make it work between the two clubs,” Scholes said.
And, of course, it’s about the fans.
“There’s a lot of Stoke City fans that regard Orlando City as their team in the U.S. and just from my time here,” Scholes said, “the opposite takes place as well.”