LIMERICK FC Chairman Pat O’Sullivan is confident the club can be back playing European club football in three years time if the corporate community gets behind their ‘Backing the Blues' initiative.
Limerick FC is this week launching a major campaign, entitled ‘Backing the Blues’, to encourage businesses in the city and county to lend their financial support to the football club.
Donations would be used to help Limerick FC continue the community work aimed at helping to bring about social change in deprived communities by getting young people into soccer and helping them with classroom literacy skills.
Limerick FC is a key driver of the Reclaim programme which is a coming together of like-minded individuals and organisations, all of whom believe that sport can be used as a valuable tool, helping to engage children and young adults from disenfranchised areas of Limerick city.
As well as the local soccer club, the Partners in Reclaim, all of whom sit on the board of Directors are, LIT, Tiernan O’Neill (Corpus Christi Moyross), Fr Pat Hogan (Parish Priest Southill), Fr Tony O’Riordan (Parish Priest Moyross) and Andrew O’Byrne (formerly of St Augustin’s and currently with Garda Youth Diversion Project Moyross).
Limerick FC Chairman Pat O’Sullivan said: "We believe if we got three to four players we would be very competitive at the top half of the Premier Division. The top four teams can play in Europe.
“If we get the corporate support in Limerick there is no reason why we could not double our crowds next season.
“That would take a lot of pressure off the corporate contributions.
“Three or four more players added to the structure we have, especially if I can get our Bruff facilities fully running, because all the players can stay there in accommodation which is top class rather than staying in hotels and houses which cost us money.
“Why couldn't we be in Europe in three years?.”
O’Sullivan is also bringing some of the biggest names of Limerick senior football on board as club ambassadors.
Players from renowned Limerick teams, including members of the League of Ireland title winning side of 1979/80 and the FAI Cup winning teams of 1970/1971 and 1981/1982, are being invited to lend their support to helping the club develop.
“I want to make all the living players from the past formal ambassadors from the club. All of them players will be given a season ticket annually.
“We don't expect them to come to every game, but they have the freedom to come to every game.
“Perhaps there will be occasions when there is functions on for the club and we would like them to come as ambassadors. Those teams and players were fantastic for Limerick. They created something very special.
“It is only fair that we recognise them. What I would really love is to see the other elements of the football family in Limerick come on board and get behind us.
“If corporate Limerick gets behind us, from what we saw towards the second half of last season, it showed us that if you are putting the right product on the pitch and the club is presenting itself as being a community club and it is all about enhancing our city and its people, once we have a good product on the pitch and we are entertaining and you have the right facilities, there is a market for it.
“Our community work is a very positive thing for a lot of people. It has benefited an awful lot of people. We think Limerick is better because of it and certainly we know from talking to the police authority that it has been positive for them. Now what we need to do is drive it further.
“We made a breakfast presentation to quite a few companies and every one of them were really taken by the kind of work we are doing. They privately stated to us that we had a terrific community programme and they would love to support us.”
O’Sullivan said the club could have gone in two directions at the end of last season when relegated down from the Premier Division to the First Division.
“We asked just because we are in the First Division now, should we lie down and accept it, go all amateur and play our U-19 side which we could do tomorrow and you could run the club for 1/5 of what it costs to run now?
“But then you would stay in the First Division. It would be very difficult to come out of it.
“We felt let's try and follow the belief that if we can find a way to keep the core of the team together and go back up straight away, this club has the best chance of being a very good, strong club going forward.
“The players liked the manager (Martin Russell) and the style of football he plays.”