The sun beamed down on the Aviva Stadium today as the new SSE Airtricity League season was officially launched. Managers and players from the 20 league teams were in attendance and they were joined by Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill, who is preparing for next week’s friendly clash with Serbia.
O’Neill praised the efforts of those involved with the league and also talked about his time playing in the Irish League. “As someone who played domestic football in Ireland, I understand the importance of the domestic game and congratulate all the managers and players here today for the tremendous work you are doing to develop Irish football,” said O’Neill.
He also discussed his attendance at league games this season. “I’m obviously going to try and take a few games in and hopefully, the managers might tell me to, over the course of the season. It will not be a PR exercise or anything like that, I would like to see some of the players come through and I think they will do,” commented O’Neill.
Eamon Naughton, Chairman of the FAI’s National League Executive Committee, talked about the excitement the league brought to its many fans around the country and hoped for an exciting season this year. Naughton said; “Last season was another exciting chapter of the league as St. Patrick’s Athletic bridged the gap of 11 years to win the Premier Division and Athlone Town ended a run of 18 seasons in the First Division by winning the title and automatic promotion to the top tier.”
Fran Gavin, Director of the SSE Airtricity League, talked of his excitement about the return of the league and seeing the players in their new gear reminded him of his days as a player. Gavin also praised FAI Chief Executive, John Delaney, on his development of the league.
The FAI and SSE Airtricty have joined forces to market the league with a new advertising game entitled “Powering Live Football.” The campaign will focus on the availability of live football in Ireland and will use the hash tag #LoveLiveFootball in it’s social media campaign.
RTÉ and Setanta Sports will continue with their live coverage of the league. RTÉ have commissioned a new show called Soccer Republic to replace the popular Monday Night Soccer that will cover the league each week throughout the season.
The prize money remains the same from last season with the league winners receiving €100,000. The winners of the First Division will receive €74,000 and the winners of the EA Sports Cup will receive €25,000.
The league kicks-off next Friday, March 7th, with a total of 330 league and play-off games to be played along with games in the FAI Ford Cup, EA Sports Cup, President’s Cup, Setanta Sports Cup, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.