The SSE Airtricity League Kicks Off tonight with Bohemians welcoming rivals Shamrock Rovers to a sold-out Dalymount Park and the RTÉ TV cameras ready to roll.
There was a 24 percent lift in attendance at Premier League fixtures last year and a stronger grounding for the clubs being achieved through the development of the U19, U17 and this season U15 Leagues.
On Tuesday the FAI announced total funding of over €1.1 Million towards the Development Leagues and with SSE Airtricity in negotiation to extend their support of the League beyond the current tenth year there are plenty of grounds for optimism.
We saw in our interview yesterday with Sponsorship manager Leanne Sheill that they will be mounting strong digital and in-ground activation across the season backed up by JGA Sports.
Everything in sport comes down to local at the end of the day though and we have been having a look around the ten clubs in the Premier League this season to see what they have been doing and saying off the pitch in the build-up to the season…
Gold star has to go first to Bohemians who have produced a compelling video to promote attendance at games and which has so far been viewed over 300,000 times around the world.
They have backed this up with some smart cultural promotion adding a locally painted mural of Bob Marley to the one of Phil Lynott and commemorating two famous concerts played at the ground in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Bohs long-term sponsor is the Mr Green Online Casino and they also list Westbrook Motors, kit manufacturer Hummel and Des Kelly Interiors on their very impressive website.
Bohemian FC also signed up as Members of Sport for Business over the winter and we will be following their community and commercial progress as well as their trip into Europe via the U19 UEFA League with interest.
Bray were in the news for the wrong reasons last season coming close to collapse mid-season but being saved by a late injection of cash that allowed them to complete last season and prepare for this year.
The club is one of the few in the League who will take to the field this year without a main shirt sponsor and while local enthusiasm for the club remains high, they will do well to maintain last season’s mid-table security.
Double Winning Cork City come into the new campaign as Favourites and with a European Campaign to look forward to.
Owned by the fans they are held up across Europe as a model on how such a club can and should be run and they are playing strong off the field as well.
In the pre-season they have featured a commercial brochure which lists many ways for local sponsors and fans to get behind the team with packages ranging from match and ball sponsorship through to even sponsoring Manager John Caulfield at a price of €450 plus VAT.
University College Cork will appear as the main shirt from sponsors again this year and other partnerships are continuing in place with the Mardyke Arena, Clonakilty Sausages, Adidas, The Evening Echo and Red FM, SoHo Bar and restaurant and Aspira Consulting
The return to the Brandywell will be warmly welcomed by fans but with an early start to the season, they will have to wait as the team plays at least its first three games on the road.
Derry City have one of the most comprehensive suite of sponsors in the League with Diamon Corrugated on the shirt front, local engineering company GMCK Gallagher and McKinney on the back, City Cabs and digital agency WurkHouse also on the shirt and local betting company Mintbet on the shorts.
Adidas are their kit supplier and they also list Desmond Ford Motors as part of their sponsorship line up.
Dundalk will be itching to win back the Title after giving second best to Cork City last season, and also to secure a return to the top levels of European football. Their run through the Europa League, including playing at the Aviva Stadium, earned €7 Million for the club in 2016, and the initial interest from new club owners American investors Peak6.
It will be interesting to see how the new owners enhance the club over the course of this season. They will doubtless want to tap into the strong and loyal fan base in much the same way they have done at Bournemouth in the English Premier League.
Fyffes remain on board as the Main Club Sponsor.
They are joined by five associate sponsors in Total Produce, FastFix, Horseware Ireland, CX+Sport, SBOBet, DKIT Sport and StatSports; by Dundalk Credit Union as their Community partner and by a further eight club sponsors including The Argus and Dundalk Democrat newspapers.
Join us again on Tuesday next week when we run through the remaining five teams in the Premier League and take a look at those playing in the First Division which gets under way in one week’s time.