With links from Irish star Seamus Coleman going all the way back to legendary goalscorer Dixie Dean, Sligo Rovers FC and Everton Football Club have strengthened those links by announcing a new strategic partnership that is based on business, academy and expansion.
The new agreement will see Everton and Sligo Rovers partner on initiatives and cross-promotional activities ranging from fan engagement, marketing, content collaborations and tailored membership packages to the development of joint football summer camps and the opportunity for pre-season training bases for Academy teams at both clubs.
The news was welcomed by Seamus Coleman, who started his career with the Bit O'Red before moving to Everton where he has gone on to captain the side and his country: "I’m delighted with this partnership between two clubs close to my heart in Sligo Rovers and Everton.
"I’ll be forever grateful to Sligo for giving me my start in professional football and for helping to pave the way for my move to Everton, the Club I am proud to captain and represent each and every day. This partnership will benefit both clubs and, in particular, can provide support to Sligo from the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic."
Sligo Rovers chairman Tommy Higgins also welcomed the news: “This is a very positive day for Sligo Rovers. We have a shared history with Everton Football Club over many decades and I also believe we have the same principles and ambitions to grow. They are a perfect fit for us for a collaboration such as this.
“Partnering with Everton will allow us to improve in many key areas, such as commercial activity, fan services and also the development of our academy coaches, which is of utmost importance. We have very talented staff and a group of coaches at the club who will learn and develop from the basis of this link-up.
“We hope it is the beginning of a very fruitful partnership and perhaps, in time, more names will be added to those that have proudly represented Sligo Rovers and Everton. Our initial focus is beginning this partnership and seeing the benefits for all parties.
"We're delighted to welcome Everton as our new strategic partner. We have two passionate sets of supporters who will now be cheering each other on."
Richard Kenyon, Director of Marketing, Communications and Community at Everton Football Club, said: “Sligo Rovers is a historic football club with a passionate fanbase, strong community support and ambitious ownership. Like a lot of clubs, Sligo Rovers are working hard to build back after the impact of coronavirus and we are very pleased to be part of a strategic agreement that marks a new chapter in their future and an exciting opportunity for Everton - building on the close relationship that has endured for more than 80 years.
“This exciting partnership is another step in our own international growth plans and offers clear benefits to both clubs. From joint fan engagement opportunities, events and business knowledge exchange to soccer camps, academy training bases and access to Sligo Rovers’ scouting network - it is an exciting collaboration. We look forward to exploring new and innovative new ways of working together.”
Throughout the storied history of both clubs, there has been a wealth of links between both players and fans from the two clubs. Most notably, Seamus Coleman made the move from Sligo Rovers as a 20-year-old to join the Toffees in 2009. Coleman has gone on to make more than 300 appearances for the Blues and become captain for Club and country.
In 1939, Everton Giant Dixie Dean signed for Sligo Rovers, scoring 10 goals in seven games and inspiring The Bit O’Red to the final of the FAI Cup.
The clubs have played each other in several friendlies across different age groups and, more recently, Sligo Rovers and their fans were humbled by the generosity of Evertonians when fans heavily supported a crowdfunding campaign which raised more than €85,000 to help the Showgrounds club with revenue during the COVID-19 shutdown of Irish football.
As part of the strategic partnership, the clubs will exchange knowledge across both coaching and business operations.
Sligo Rovers has a prestigious history in Irish football as three-times League of Ireland champions and five-time winners of the FAI Cup.
Sligo were bottom of the Premier Division table in 2020 when COVID-19 forced the league shutdown, but returned in emphatic fashion following that funding campaign to finish in fourth place and qualify for European football in 2021.
The strategic partnership forms part of Everton’s wider international growth plans and follows on from the Club’s successful collaboration with Chile’s Everton de Vina del Mar and the growth of the Everton International Academy Affiliate Programme in the US and Australia.