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SARACENS REBRANDS ROW ‘R’ TO ‘RO’ AS IT CALLS FOR MORE DONORS OF BLACK HERITAGE TO HELP FIGHT SICKLE CELL DISORDER

01.11.23
In association with
City Index City Index
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Saracens Rugby Club has today announced a rebrand of row ‘R’ to row ‘Ro’ at its London-based StoneX Stadium - as it calls for more donors with the Ro subtype to help fight sickle cell disorder in the UK.

The disorder currently affects around 17,500 people across the country, primarily impacting those with African and Caribbean heritage. Ro - a variation of the RH positive blood type - is vital in treating sickle cell and also more commonly found in those from black heritage communities. With growing demand meaning the NHS currently needs 12,000 more Black heritage donors a year in England, Saracens has partnered with Sickle Cell Society, an organisation dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by sickle cell disorder, in a bold move that it hopes will encourage more people to come forward and register to donate.

Row ‘Ro’, which will be unveiled on Saturday 4th November when Saracens take on the Leicester Tigers at home, will see every seat in the row rebranded to the colour red, representing the rare 'Ro' subtype. The ‘Blood From a StoneX’ campaign will see each seat feature a QR code that allows the crowd to both donate to Sickle Cell Society and, if applicable, sign up to be a blood donor through the NHS.

Throughout the season, the Saracens website will also undergo a transformation, making it easy for supporters to register as donors. When fans hover over the row Ro seats on the stadium's virtual map, they will find information about the campaign and instructions on how to donate - with another option to do so presented at checkout.

In further support and spearheaded by England powerhouse Maro Itoje, Saracens and StoneX have created an emotive film with key players across the men's and women's rugby teams and the Mavericks netball team. The film stands at the heart of the campaign, highlighting the urgency for increased blood donations to help treat sickle cell. All the players involved are from African & Caribbean heritage and spoke about the realities that these communities face in not having enough blood donations to treat the disorder. StoneX have additionally committed to contributing £2,000 towards the support of sickle cell disorder for each try that the Saracens team scores during their upcoming fixture against Leicester Tigers.

Demand for Ro is increasing by 10-15% each year, however only 2% of regular donors have the Ro subtype, meaning there is a gap between the number of donations the NHS collects and the amount of Ro blood that hospitals need. Sickle Cell Society has been working closely with NHS Blood and Transplant to help bring in more donors and Saracens hopes to boost this even further through its season-long partnership with the charity.

Together, they will raise awareness of the disorder and educate sports fans about the pressing need for increased blood donations. The collaboration is a sustained commitment by both parties, with Sickle Cell Society featuring in matchday programmes, hosting stalls at Saracens games for fans to learn more about the disorder, being interviewed at halftime to explain the work the charity does.

NHS Blood and Transplant has also been consulted since the onset and supported by Saracens and StoneX Group in visits toStoneX Stadium to run its ‘What’s Your Blood Type’ initiative, which told players their likely blood type and allowed NHS Blood and Transplant staff to educate them on how to register as a new blood donor. Through a quick finger prick blood test, this initiative is used across the UK to engage more people to sign up as donors and help identify who may have vital blood like Ro subtype.

Maro Itoje,  Men’s Rugby Player & Premiership Winner with Saracens, commented, “I have personal experience with sickle cell, with some of my friends and family living with the disorder. I, therefore, understand the significance of the Ro subtype in our community and how important it is for those with African and Caribbean heritage to donate blood. This is not something that a rugby club usually does, so I’m proud to be part of one that is pushing boundaries to help people. I hope to encourage more blood donors from my community to give those living with the disorder a better quality of life.”

John James OBE, CEO, Sickle Cell Society, said, “Enabling more people to be aware of sickle cell disorder is essential in tackling the challenges that people with the condition face. This creative and unprecedented partnership with Saracens and Stone X will support us to reach new audiences and, crucially, highlight the life-saving importance of increasing the numbers of African and Caribbean heritage people regularly donating blood.”

Philip Smith, CEO, EMEA at StoneX Group Inc., commented, “It is not often that you can physically change a stadium to help increase awareness for such a good cause, so we were fully onboard with the idea from the first discussion. StoneX is committed to breaking down information barriers and helping to ensure that an understanding of SCD was given access to a wider audience. We have had a successful partnership with the Saracens since 2021, with this campaign being one that StoneX is most proud of and we look forward to driving more people to donate blood throughout the whole season."

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