Belfast Telegraph

Carling Premiership fans savouring time on big stage

By Chris Holt

Ultimately it’s the men and women on the terraces who matter most in all aspects of football, so what have they made of the impact that Sky has had on the Carling Premiership?

For exiled Cliftonville fan Dave Hawkins the link up has been perfect and he is in a position to see how those without a natural affiliation take to the game.

“From my perspective it has had a positive impact on our league,” he said.

“I have lived in Jersey for 18 years and friends here know about my team Cliftonville as I go on and on about them.

“With the advent of Sky they were pleasantly surprised by what was on offer and would now tune in to watch these games. They are all aware of how the league is progressing and some have even ‘adopted’ a team.”

And crucially, cash-wise it’s been of great benefit says Portadown supporter Andrew Lutton

“From a financial point of view it gives much needed cash to each club and also exposes the local game to a very wide audience,” he says. “Hopefully the local audience, when they see the product on offer will be encouraged to go and watch their local clubs and provide more revenue that way.”

Coleraine fan Darren Leckey had a similar view.

“I think the support Sky have given the Irish League is fantastic,” he said. “It is great for the profile of our league and the broadcasts are very professional.

“Alongside the advertising advantages that comes with Sky games, the clubs also gain valuable financial incentives.

“I hope that the Irish League continues to be featured on Sky Sports for a long time to come.”

Ballymena United fan, Paul Irwin says that the coverage on Sky has dragged some people out of the comfort of their living rooms and back onto the terraces.

“I have mates who would usually be in the ‘armchair supporter’ category, but have taken an interest in Irish League football since seeing a few games on Sky,” said Paul.

“Some have attended matches, some are still being worked upon.”

Glentoran fan Eddy Patrick, on the other hand, blames Sky for the difficult position that the local game has found itself in, but readily admits the broadcaster is doing its bit to help turn things around.

“Long term, Sky Sports has harmed the Irish League by brainwashing thousands into thinking supporting a football team means watching a foreign side through a TV screen. However in recent years the company has supported the smaller leagues and their coverage is top notch,” said Eddy.

“One thing is for sure, the way Sky covers Irish League football puts local broadcasters to shame.”

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