Member News & Events

Explosive life of brave bomb disposal hero

The amazing life and career of the ‘real life Hurt Locker star’ – bomb disposal hero Major Chris Hunter – was told to 100 businesspeople from across the region at the AFC Business Director’s Lunch.

He was keynote speaker at the event held at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium by AFC Business, commercial arm of the Premier League club, and hosted by Chairman Jeff Mostyn.

Major Hunter, whose gruelling missions in Iraq inspired the Hollywood blockbuster film, told his story from joining the Army at 16, serving with specialist counter terrorism unit and being deployed in operational theatres such as The Balkans, Northern Ireland, Colombia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
He was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for his actions in Iraq, worked as a senior intelligence analyst at the Ministry of Defence and was seconded to COBRA, the Cabinet Office’s emergency response committee, at the time of the 7/7 London bombings.

Major Hunter, who also found time to author books about his exploits in the most dangerous places on Earth, continues to work as a counter-terrorism consultant, and returned to Iraq after the lunch, where he trains locals in bomb disposal.

A main thrust of his speech was to show how his experiences in the high-pressure, high stakes world of bomb disposal and intelligence led him to develop the skills, psychologies and life-or-death decision-making processes and translating them to the current needs of the commercial world.

During a question and answer session conducted by interviewer Harvey Thornycroft, Major Hunter referenced psychometric testing, communications, fear of failure, motivation, soft skills, dealing with mavericks and leadership.

He spoke of the military’s OODA loop decision action cycle, referencing his time in Iraq where every decision made could have been his last.

He said: “In any given activity to observe the atmospherics, you orientate your resources or your focus, you make a decision then you act – then you observe, orientate, decide act again. Your competitors will be doing exactly the same thing so your decision action cycle has to be faster than theirs in order to achieve success.”

“Fear comes in many forms and the most common one is fear of failure. I think this is misplaced. Sometimes you have just got to make a decision and if Plan A doesn’t work there are another 25 letters in the alphabet.

“Where I have seen amazing people be hugely successful is when they have been prepared to take a risk, albeit a calculated risk – and the reason others have not been successful is usually because their fear of failure has curtailed them and they have not been prepared to take a gamble.”

Peter Lamb, from Savills Planning which was sponsoring the event for the third time, gave an overview of the economic powerhouse that is the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole region.

The BCP Council area is the 12 largest in England with a population of 394,000, bigger than Cardiff, Southampton, Brighton and Portsmouth and just 14 per cent smaller than Bristol.

He spoke of the area’s strengths, including the tourism industry – which is worth £10.7 million annually and supports 12,000 jobs – AFC Bournemouth, Bournemouth Airport, Bournemouth University and Arts University Bournemouth, which have 23,500 students and a 22 per cent graduate retention rate.

Mr Lamb, based in Wimborne, also listed the challenges faced by what he described as Urban Dorset – infrastructure, roads, productivity – which is significantly below Bristol and Southampton – and unaffordable housing.

Opportunities include improving connectivity, building more homes and top quality commercial floor space, attracting more tech companies and repurposing unused retail space.

AFC Business, the free to join business club with almost 1,800 members, is the engine for all the club’s commercial activities.

It was launched in 2009 and gives members exclusive offers at AFC Bournemouth, access to events and is a great chance to meet local businesses.

AFC Business’ five main partners are Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dorset Mental Health Forum, Hill Osborne and Strategic Solutions.

The next AFC Business event is an Al Fresco Evening on Friday, August 2 which includes dining and the Cherries’ pre-season friendly against Serie A giants Lazio.

For further information about the business club, email your details to Aysia Smith at

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AFC Business hails Rupert the Conkerer

AFC Business

The rise of Bournemouth’s award-winning Conker Spirit has been celebrated at the first Gin Evening to be staged by AFC Business.

The brand’s founder Rupert Holloway was guest speaker at the event staged in the Bubbles Champagne Lounge at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.

Bournemouth Town Centre BID hosted the evening and Chief Operating Officer Paul Kinvig interviewed Rupert about his success story.

Businesspeople from across the region gathered for gin tasting, live music, food and networking at the newest event to be held by AFC Business, the commercial arm of AFC Bournemouth. Rupert was on hand to discuss his journey from kitchen table to Dorset’s first gin distillery in Southbourne and the story of his Dorset Dry Gin, made from Dorset botanicals and New Forest spring water.

The former quantity surveyor gave up his job, sold his car and sourced funding from wherever he could to launch Conker Spirit and scale it up into the success it is today with a range of products stocked by major retailers.

Conker Spirit has won a host of awards, including a Bronze at the 2018 World Gin Awards, and has branched out with its Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur and also the new 57% proof Navy Strength Gin, which benefits the RNLI by £5 from each bottle sold.

Bournemouth Town Centre BID – a not-for-profit-company established in 2017 and primarily funded by a levy on nearly 700 businesses within its area – is dedicated to raising the town centre’s profile, generating investment, increasing footfall and boosting revenue.

A fundraising raffle was held in aid of Dorset Mental Health Forum, AFC Business charity partner for the 2018/19 season, and the organisation’s Becky Aldridge and Sarah Rose were present to talk about the work of the long-established charity.

AFC Bournemouth Partnerships Manager Amy Brunton thanked all the sponsors for their continued support, saying they had been instrumental in the club’s success on and off the field.

Amy also announced a new AFC Business venture – a pre-match meal, hospitality and ticket to the pre-season friendly against Italian Serie A giants Lazio of Rome on August 2 at Vitality Stadium.

AFC Business, the free to join business club with almost 1,800 members, is the engine for all the club’s commercial activities. It was launched in 2009 and gives members exclusive offers at AFC Bournemouth, access to events and is a great chance to meet local businesses.

AFC Business’ five main partners are Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dorset Mental Health Forum, Hill Osborne and Strategic Solutions.

The next AFC Business event is the Directors’ Lunch for senior business people at Vitality Stadium on Wednesday July 10, which is sponsored by Savills and features as guest speaker Major Chris Hunter QGM, counter-terrorist bomb disposal specialist, with former Northampton rugby star Harvey Thorneycroft hosting proceedings.

For further information about the business club, email your details to Aysia Smith at

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Region’s economic powerhouse growing

Region’s economic powerhouse growing

The Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area is an economic powerhouse which is only going to get stronger, the latest AFC Business event was told.

More than 80 directors, business leaders, decision-makers and business people were at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium for the May networking breakfast.

They heard newly-elect BCP Council member Nigel Hedges talk about the importance of businesses to the region’s prosperity.

Cllr Hedges, the Conservative councillor for Wallisdown and Winton West, said: “This is a brilliant area in which to do business – a financial powerhouse in a rural county. We must be on our toes ready to do business and benefit from each other.

“I will continue to bang the drum for business and BCP Council will do all it can to facilitate economic development – in a sense the council is a self-sufficient business itself, representing 400,000 people and with a £750 million budget.”

Cllr Hedges, who hosted the breakfast event, added: “AFC Business offers a fabulous opportunity to meet so many different businesses and see how brilliant you all are at what you do.”

AFC Business, the free to join business club with almost 1,800 members, is the engine for all the Premier League club’s commercial activities. It was launched in 2009 and gives members exclusive offers at AFC Bournemouth, access to events and is a great chance to meet local businesses.

Amy Brunton, AFC Bournemouth’s partnerships manager, said the next business event would be the popular Play on the Pitch five-a-side football tournament at Vitality Stadium on May 15.

This is followed on June 13 by the AFC Business Gin Evening in Bubbles Champagne Lounge at the stadium, featuring Rupert Holloway, who will discuss the success behind creating Dorset’s locally distilled, award-winning Conker spirits.

AFC Business’ five main partners are Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dorset Mental Health Forum, Hill Osborne and Strategic Solutions.

For further information about the business club, email your details to Aysia Smith at or see to book event tickets.

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University on the ball with AFC Bournemouth

University on the ball with AFC Bournemouth

Businesses in Dorset could take a leaf out of AFC Bournemouth’s book and draw upon the skills of Bournemouth University’s students and academics.

More than 70 businessmen and women heard how BU provides the Premier League club with expertise across a range of disciplines.

That included a testing time 11 years ago when the Cherries could barely pay staff before a series of promotions to top-flight football, with BU’s students proudly mucking in.
The March breakfast networking event by AFC Business, which has 2,000 members and is the club’s free-to-join business club, was held at BU’s Fusion Building on Talbot Campus.

BU has been the club’s official higher education partner since 2013, with AFC Bournemouth’s commercial director Rob Mitchell, a BU graduate, forging links back in 2008 when he arrived at the Cherries

He told the audience: “One of the first partnerships I wanted to forge was with the university because of the resources here, the students, the academics – the support that the university could give would be boundless.”

BU has provided the Cherries since 2008 with skills across various disciplines, including sports science, marketing, research, coaching, physiotherapy and media, as well as helping out on match days.

A number of students have gone on to work full-time at AFC Bournemouth, Rob said. “It has been a bit of a career path for them.”

There are also player appearances at BU, with guest talks, special topics and links with equality and diversity and mental health and wellbeing.

BU is also supports AFC Bournemouth’s girls’ football programme as part of the club’s drive to promote and increase female participation in the game.

Attendees heard how the football club and university teamed up on a coaching programme for 180 Chinese students, over three years, as part of China’s bid to be an international force in soccer by 2050.

Jim Andrews, BU’s chief operating officer, said that engagement between business and the university, which has 20,000 students and contributes £1 million a day to the regional economy, is essential if talent is to be kept within the region.

He said: “Something that makes BU distinct is the number of students we have on placement at any one time. We are one of the only institutions to offer a work placement for every undergraduate course. The reason we do that is because work placement means better employment outcomes. It is really important to us that we work with local companies, national companies and international companies to provide those opportunities for our students to get real-life practical experiences because that is what you, as companies, are looking for.”

The event also heard an update on the regional and national economy from Professor Jim Roach and from Ian Jones, head of regional community partnerships at BU.

After the event Rob said: “This was another informative breakfast event for decision-makers and entrepreneurs, with us showing how businesses in Dorset can successfully follow the Cherries’ example by drawing upon the considerable skills and expertise of BU’s students and academics across a range of disciplines.”

For further information about the business club please email Aysia Smith at aysia.smith

Official partners of AFC Business are Bournemouth Chamber of Trade & Commerce, Dorset Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Dorset Mental Health Forum, Hill Osborne and Strategic Solutions.

The next business club event, the spring BBQ, takes place on 11th April at Vitality Stadium, followed by a networking breakfast at the same venue on 8th May.

Paying respects

Thanking the business partners of AFC Business, Rob paid tribute to the late Bill Riddle, the vice president and chairman of Bournemouth Chamber of Trade & Commerce and a highly respected figure in the town’s business community.

Rob said: “Bill was a fantastic supporter of the football club and business club. He was an avid Sunderland supporter but I know that AFC Bournemouth was very close to his heart as well.

“On behalf of the football club I want to send our sincere condolences and thoughts and prayers to Bill’s family, friends and everyone that was associated with Bill as well.”

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Cherries player earns pupils’ respect

Cherries player earns pupils’ respect

AFC Bournemouth midfielder Lewis Cook thrilled year five pupils at Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School by coaching them in the value of respect.

Corpus Christi in Boscombe is the latest school to benefit from the club’s Citizenship & Respect programme, which is delivered by AFC Bournemouth’s self-funding, non-profit Community Sports Trust and supported by Goadsby.

Independent estate agency Goadsby, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, sponsors the highly popular project which uses young people’s love of football to encourage good behaviour at school, at home, in sport and within the community.

Lewis said: “It was great meeting all the children. During the workshops the Community Sports Trust team and I worked with the one year five class and one year two class to discuss and share ideas about the importance of respect.

“They were all very engaged and enthusiastic and I was impressed by the thought they put into their questions and answers.”

Lewis was also quizzed by the children on his career and gave out AFC Bournemouth branded prizes.

The youngsters also received booklets provided by Goadsby which include fun activities and examples of how they can show respect within football.

Paul Stewart, managing director of Goadsby (Commercial), said: “This is our fifth season as a partner of AFC Bournemouth’s Community Sports Trust and it continues to be very rewarding for us as a company to be involved, both with the club and a programme which has such a positive impact on young people’s lives.”

Steve Cuss AFC Bournemouth’s Head of Community said: “The Citizenship & Respect programme is always a big hit with children and we are hugely grateful to Goadsby who have established themselves as a loyal club partner and a real community champion.”

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Six of the best as insurance firm sings with Cherries again

Specialist broker Alan & Thomas Insurance Group has renewed its partnership with AFC Bournemouth for a sixth successive year.

The Cherries’ Official Commercial Insurance Suppliers manage the club’s commercial insurance activities from their head office in Poole.

AFC Bournemouth star striker Callum Wilson was on hand to present a commemorative shirt to the company’s Trading Director Mark Hasell at Vitality Stadium.

Alan & Thomas Insurance Group have grown to now employ more than 80 people across their five offices in Poole, Basingstoke, Dorchester, Gillingham and Frome.

AFC Bournemouth’s Commercial Director Rob Mitchell said: “We are delighted that Alan & Thomas has signed up with us again.”

“The company has been a long-term sterling supporter of AFC Bournemouth, offering expert guidance on commercial insurance matters, and we welcome their renewed and strengthened partnership.”

“We have a long history with the company, which was instrumental in helping our fight against administration in 2000, and has been with us through thick and thin.”

Alan & Thomas has also become an executive partner of AFC Business. This establishes the company as an integral part of the free-to-join business club with presence at all the monthly events.

Mr Hasell said: “We are so glad to have been a part of AFC Bournemouth’s amazing rise to a position of strength in the Premier League and we had no hesitation is continuing our partnership for the 2018/19 season.

“Alan & Thomas has been growing alongside the football club and we are proud to have shared that journey by being both a keen supporter and provider of services to the Cherries.”

The company will continue to have stadium advertising, presence on match days and regularly attend AFCB’s corporate events.

Alan & Thomas is a leading insurance specialist based in Southern England providing commercial insurance solutions and risk management services for businesses, organisations, charities and personal insurance for high net worth individuals.

Founded in 1975, the firm is now part of a group of insurance brokers proudly in the Top 20 in the UK. In 2007, Alan & Thomas joined a select few brokers to be awarded Chartered Insurance Broker status by the Chartered Insurance Institute – the industry’s gold standard for insurance brokers.

AFC Business ­– the business club with 1,600 members and well-established as the engine for all the club’s commercial activities – welcomes hundreds of businesses to a variety of events and functions throughout the season

Becoming a member of AFC Business hosts a variety of benefits. To sign up to AFC Business today, email your details to the commercial team on

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Sporting legends prove the business

Two sporting heroes entertained nearly 150 directors from businesses across Dorset and Hampshire with inspirational stories at the seventh annual AFC Business Directors’ Dinner.

Double Olympic gold medal rower and adventurer James Cracknell, 46, was the keynote speaker at the event, held at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.

He spoke candidly of the trials and tribulations of being an endurance athlete, as well as his crowning achievements and appearances on TV, including Celebrity Island with adventurer, writer and presenter Bear Grylls.

Such is James’ commitment to training, he practiced weeing every night in a bottle whilst prone under the covers in bed – just as he later had to do in a sleeping bag during his South Pole trek in temperatures of up to -50C!

James, 46, also touched upon the aftermath of a near-fatal accident – he was in a coma after struck from behind by the wing mirror of a fuel truck while cycling through Arizona, USA, for a TV programme in 2010; his cycle helmet saved his life.

He suffered a major head injury and spent six months recovering. He is now vice president of the charity Headway and an advocate of cycle helmets.

Steve Fletcher, 46, AFC Bournemouth’s assistant coach for the first team, was also a guest speaker, telling the audience about the club’s forensic attention to detail in training because “marginal gains of one percent can be the difference about being in the Premier League”.

The former striker at the club, who played with the Cherries for 18 seasons and has one of the stadium stands named after him, also recounted the ‘Great Escape’ goal he scored which saved AFC Bournemouth from relegation to non-league football in April 2009.

He provided the winner in a do-or-die home match against Grimsby – the hundredth goal of his career. That kick kept the club alive and paved the way for Premier League status a few years on, a fairy tale transformation in fortunes.

“The ball came to me, I chested it down, closed my eyes and volleyed the ball into the back of the net.”

Steve also said: “Someone once told me that if they cut me open I’d bleed red and black – that brought tears to my eyes.”

The Directors’ Dinner, which took place in the Top Floor Restaurant and was hosted by Harvey Thorneycroft, offers senior businessmen and women the chance to meet and network in a relaxed environment.

AFC Bournemouth commercial director Rob Mitchell said: “Our seventh annual Directors’ Dinner was a superb event, with a full house, and we were all gripped by the stories told by James and Steve, two great ambassadors for sport.

“In a message which clearly resonated with a lot of business people in the room, what came across was the determination to overcome adversity and the drive to always move forward, accepting that setbacks and defeats are part of the journey.”

AFC Business is AFC Bournemouth’s free-to-join business club which offers a host of benefits to its 1,600 members, such as attendance at regular events and breakfast networking meetings and enables the club to maintain a high profile in the business community.

For further information about the business club, email or call 0344 576 1910.

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Company protecting children online signs with Cherries

A Dorset based managed IT service provider helping children to stay safe online, has signed up to support AFC Bournemouth for another season.

Bournemouth and London based IT Support Business (ITSB) has renewed its partnership with the Cherries.

Under the arrangement, ITSB is an official partner of AFC Bournemouth’s self-funding, non-profit Community Sports Trust and sponsors a schools project called Connect with Care.

The project, whose club ambassador is midfielder Andrew Surman, provides lessons in one-hour workshops designed to educate young people on how to remain safe while using the internet.

ITSB chief executive Lee Dredge said: “As a provider of IT services to schools we feel it’s our responsibility to help educate young people on the dangers of the internet and as a parent myself, it’s a subject that’s dear to my heart.

“That is why I’m delighted that we are once again going to be working with the AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust on this great initiative.”

AFC Bournemouth partnerships manager Amy Brunton said: “It’s great to have ITSB back on board for another season. The company is very much at the heart of this worthwhile educational programme.

“Connect with Care is a wonderful classroom-based scheme and the Community Trust’s sessions are increasingly popular and have proved to be invaluable for parents, pupils and teachers.”

Support specialist ITSB, founded in 2010 and headquartered in Richmond Hill, has also signed up as an executive business partner of AFC Business, the club’s commercial arm.

As an executive partner of AFC Business this season, ITSB will continue to be an integral part of AFC Bournemouth’s free to join business club and play a role at monthly networking events and other gatherings.

The partnership will see ITSB engage with businesses across the region that are members of AFC Business, which now has more than 1,600 members and is the engine for all the club’s commercial activities.

Amy added: “We invite companies and organisations across the region to join AFC Business and take part in a host of events, as well as meeting like-minded entrepreneurs, directors and decision-makers.”

For further information about the business club, email or call 0344 576 1910.

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AFC Bournemouth and Yellow Buses have agreed to continue driving safety lessons into schools for the next two seasons – with Cherries’ star Dan Gosling heading the initiative.

The partnership began in 2016 and since then thousands of primary school pupils have taken part in the ‘Soccer Safety School’.

To celebrate, Yellow Buses will be giving away two Junior Cherries’ memberships on its social media channels.

These entitle youngsters to a host of benefits including meeting first team stars, discounts at local attractions and invitations to special events.

Steve Cuss, the club’s Head of Community, developed the programme that has been a massive hit with children and teachers alike.

It is part of the club’s Community Sport’s Trust and player ambassador Dan Gosling has raised its profile across the conurbation.

He said: “I have really enjoyed being a part of this project and visiting schools.

“I spent my childhood outside kicking a ball about and I want the next generation to do the same thing, and this initiative helps them do it safely.”

Steve Cuss said: “The course has evolved since we launched it with Yellow Buses in 2016 and the children have a lot of fun while learning.

“It includes highlighting the risks and dangers that children face when out playing and these involve road safety, which is something that Yellow Buses are experts in.

“We all want our children to be healthy and fit but we also want them to remain safe when they’re playing.

“Last year we delivered 61 lessons covering 1,800 children.”

Fiona Harwood from Yellow Buses said: “We have been delivering fans to Bournemouth games for more than a century and it’s great that we’re helping the newest generation of Cherries’ fans.

“We have two Junior Cherries’ memberships that we will be giving away over Facebook – so do look out for them!”

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