Up the Bit O' Red campaign launched
One weekday evening before Christmas, out of the blue, in Alfie Mahon’s barber shop, Seanie Mulligan asked the question ‘what was the best save you’ve ever seen?’
He quickly made known his own choice - ‘Dinny Lowry from Davey Pugh in the 1970 Cup Final.’
Memory instantly transported us back 47 years. The semi-final saga against Cork Hibs and then the final and the heartache against Bohs, three matches, all on their home ground, with Tony O’Connell’s goal eventually giving them a 2-1 victory.
“With all the train journeys to Dublin, there wasn’t a clod left in the town” said Alfie.
“I remember us on the terraces in Dalymount. We brought bottles of milk and we were sharing jam sandwiches.”
Interludes like that one in Alfie’s Thomas Street Shop sum up our relationship with Sligo Rovers. The club is the thread that binds us. It provides the collection of memories that gives us a sense of place, of time and of who we are.
We had a golden period - a League title, FAI Cup winners three times, European football. We built a new stand. We opened our all-weather facility and the Showgrounds got a facelift.
And then, as happens in football, change and a struggle. For a long time last season it seemed that we were destined for relegation. But when the tide seemed to be going out, the club dug deep into its soul and three fine clubs, our neighbours Finn Harps and Galway, as well as Drogheda lost out as we survived.
All of us who love the Rovers can see what’s happening. It’s a Dublin-centric league where geography is against us. Teams close to the M50 and the network of motorways that run off it have a greater pick of players and lower running costs.
By necessity, because of our location, we have fought the hardest to keep the League of Ireland flag flying. Experience has taught us how the model that works best for us is a full-time set-up: players, manager and back room staff. It is the combination that provides the best hope of excitement, and of show business. The possibility that we might see something or someone beyond the ordinary.
Our League does not compare to the model we know and follow, across the water. Because of the role played by huge sums of TV money, even League Two sides in England receive a large subvention at the start of every season.
For League of Ireland clubs like us, there is no such financial assistance. The requirement of fielding Under-15, Under 17 and Under 19 teams in a national league plus FAI registration costs and referees and officials fees means an annual bill of €100,000 - €150,000 before a ball is kicked.
When a home game is televised live, there is no payment on offer and gate receipts usually suffer.
Given these operating rules and a system that is unlikely to change, the only way to bring back the good times is for Sligo Rovers to qualify for European football again.
During our recent golden phase, European money helped to finance the infrastructure improvements in The Showgrounds.
And the amount given to qualifying clubs has actually increased significantly since our glory days ended. For a club like ours, with an annual turnover of €1million, European qualification can now mean 30% to 40% of annual income and even more, if results go your way.
After three years of struggle, without European football, Sligo Rovers FC has a debt to manage and it restricts our aspirations going forward. Without tackling it, the only way is down again. It would be wrong and unfair to say that is an indictment of how the club has been run. The truth is that without European money or the gate receipts that are generated by success, it is a tribute to those who stayed at the wheel of the club during very rough times that the level of debt is as low.
Anyone who has served on a Sligo Rovers committee, or with any other sporting or voluntary organisation, will tell you it is a very demanding challenge. You are constantly aware of the need for funds and you are always battling with factors that you cannot control. Serving as part of a team in good times brings its own demands. But it requires extraordinary effort and resilience to stay involved when every day is a struggle and when all the breaks seem to be going against you.
Aware of these realities, we are alerting the Sligo Rovers family in every corner of the globe that we are launching a plan to try to revitalise our beloved club. We will seek to raise as much money as possible to lift the shadow of debt that overhangs the club. We’re aware that the club seems to be constantly fund-raising to stay afloat. Such efforts made the difference between Premier Division survival and relegation last year. We were the talk of the League of Ireland when our Rally Around The Rovers Campaign raised €80,000 in 2015.
But we fear that if we don’t launch this initiative to get the club to a place where it has a real chance of European football, then we will remain in a cycle of struggle that will eventually lead to relegation and impossibly bleak times.
We are a combination of the people who were involved in the Rally Around The Rovers Campaign and other projects, working in conjunction with the current Sligo Rovers Committee.
We are motivated solely by a love of Sligo Rovers and an understanding of how important the club and the Showgrounds are to so many lives. We will hope to connect with the wider Sligo Rovers family and North West people in different parts of the world as well as with people who, year in, year out, dig deep into their limited resources for the club.
We promise that we will publish a full account of every contribution made on the Sligo Rovers website. Every cent received will be acknowledged and if individuals or organisations wish to remain anonymous, their privacy will be respected.
We’re calling it ‘The Up The Bit O’ Red Campaign’. We will publish a list of our first donations next Monday and will do so every week until the initiative concludes at end of March.
With the Rally Around The Rovers initiative, we set a notional contribution of €100. This time we are leaving it to each individual (double click on Donate or click here. Go to pay with credit card or bank account).
Our aim, between now and the end of March, is to see how much of a dent we can make in the figure of €180,000.
We believe we have a talented manager who deserves our support. Three former managers at the Showgrounds, Paul Cook (Wigan Athletic, League One), John Coleman (Accrington Stanley, League Two), Steve Cotterill (Birmingham City, Championship) are currently working across the water and we gave them the chance to succeed.
We see Seamus Coleman, a Republic of Ireland captain that made his name here, about to return from a serious injury and what Sligo Rovers did for his career.
If we harness our shared love of the The Rovers and all work together, maybe we can make the magic happen again.
Contributions can be made in several ways.
· Members of our group, listed in alphabetical order, and Sligo Rovers Committee members can be contacted via details below. Payments can be made to any of those individuals.
· Payments can be made via the club office in person or by credit card via phone between 10am and 2pm on weekdays (071-9171212).
· Payments can be made via bank transfer - please write "UBOR - Joe Bloggs" as a reference
Bank Branch: AIB, Stephen St., Sligo
Sort Code: 93-72-58
Account No: 13125010
IBAN: IE55 AIBK 9372 5813 1250 10
· Payments can be made via Paypal online - click here (Go to pay with credit card or bank account).