Irish Premiership winner ready to rake in the cash
The inaugural winners of the Irish FA Premiership will pocket five times more than the previous champions.
The IFA yesterday announced a huge increase in prize money for the new league which kicks-off on August 9.
And the cash injection is borne out by the fact that the team that finishes bottom of the league will be handed more than twice as much money as Linfield received when they won the title back in April.
The prize pot totals £340,000 — although the IFA had hoped the figure would hit the £500,000 thanks to increases in sponsorship and television money — with the champions walking off with a cheque for a handsome £50,000.
And with participation in the Champions League worth a minimum of £150,000 per round thanks to UEFA, there is more of an incentive than ever to be crowned the top team in the country.
The team that finishes bottom of the pile will still bank a handsome sum, with a payment of £21,000 and there will be an extra £1,000 per place up to third in the league, with the runners-up collecting £35,000.
And clubs will receive an immediate windfall with a £10,000 payment as soon as they sign up to the participation agreement for the new league, with the rest of the money being paid out when their finishing position is determined.
The total amount on offer comes to £400,000, with £30,000 from Sky Sports with each club who hosts a live game pocketing £6,000, parachute payments of £5,000 each to the five clubs from last season's Premier League who missed out on a place in the new league and £2,500 to each of the CIS Insurance Cup finalists coming from live television coverage, with details of the format of that competition due to be released in the next couple of weeks.
It will, however, operate as a midweek competition, with clubs from outside the Premiership involved, with the final scheduled for Saturday, February 28.
The all singing, all dancing league will kick off with a couple of interesting fixtures.
Linfield's league title defence almost came unstuck when they were held to a 0-0 draw at Lisburn Distillery in the spring and they travel to take on the Whites in the new competition's curtain raiser.
Roy Walker's first match as manager of Ballymena United will come at the home of the club he was appointed as manager of last summer, Glentoran, before a lack of coaching badges made it one of the shortest reigns in history.
The Braidmen have an impressive record at the Oval and Walker will fancy his chances of making a return to management after an eight-year break with an opening victory.
The most attractive game on the second weekend of the season will be last season's third placed finishers Cliftonville taking on Linfield at WIndsor Park.
Eddie Patterson's Reds face a tough start to the season as they have all of their first three games away from home.
The club requested that be the case so that redevelopment work at Solitude can be completed before the first home game of the season takes place.
The season is longer than before, starting on August 9 and running until the first Saturday in May, which is usually when the Irish Cup final takes place.
That means the showpiece game of the season will be played seven days later.
And one thing is almost certain, the new league will also see the first high profile local football game to be played on a Sunday in the coming season.
Donegal Celtic would have gone for Sunday fixtures had they made the cut, but Newry City are now the most likely club to mark the end of the Sunday football ban in Northern Ireland.