Tuesday 24 April 2018

Dundalk owners targeting domestic domination

There was a rousing reception for a speech from Stephen Kenny welcoming the new investors. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
There was a rousing reception for a speech from Stephen Kenny welcoming the new investors. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The new owners of Dundalk have declared their intention to make the Louth club the dominant force in Irish football, and stressed their immediate priority is improving the team before addressing problems with Oriel Park.

Dundalk have been taken over by a consortium of US businessmen who are being supported by investment company Peak6 in assuming 100pc control over the football club.

They spoke publicly for the first time last night at a meeting arranged for supporters that was attending by more than 300 curious fans.

Questions were invited from the floor, and they largely centred on the longer term ambitions both on and off the pitch and the motivations behind investing in Irish football.

While the new regime insisted they are ready to make a long term commitment, they made it clear the playing structure was ahead of infrastructure in their list of priorities with European joy the key.

Fred Spencer, an English businessman based in New York, said: "Our priority is to build a first class football side. We will look at infrastucture in the longer term. But if we don't have a good first team side on the pitch, there's nothing after that.

"In time, it (Oriel Park) is something we are willing to turn our attention to but our immediate priority is to win the league and success in Europe."

Mike Treacy, who is Peak6's main representative in this deal and the chair of the new board, struck a bullish note with a top table address.

"The plan is to win and re-invest and win and build some more," he said. "We do want to build great infrastructure.. we are going to leverage our success and make this not just the best club in Ireland, but the most dominant club in Ireland."

Those words did go down well with the floor, and the club's new CEO Malachy Brannigan also drew a few cheers when he spoke about taking the league title back from Cork City.

There was also a rousing reception for a speech from Stephen Kenny welcoming the new investors and thanking former owners Paul Brown and Andy Connolly for their work.

Indeed, a large number of the questions from fans veered into wedding speech territory with thank yous galore and a welcome to the family for the American guests.

Speaking to media afterwards, co-owner and spokesman Jordan Gardner stressed that comparisons should not be made with previous failed investments in Irish football.

The highest profile example is Arkaga's takeover of Cork a decade ago that left the Leesiders in serious bother.

Gardner challenged any comparisons - although he declined to get into discussing the financial projections and the level of investment that the US group will bring to the table here.

Dundalk's European run in 2016 put the club on their radar and the books are in a healthy position because of that adventure with Brannigan stating the finances are secure.

"The club is in a good position," said Gardner, "Obviously we've read about what happened at Cork and this is a completely different situation. We are serious investors who have stakes in global football clubs; investors with business and football acumen."

Peak6 have a stake in Bournemouth and Roma while Gardner has a stake in Swansea. They say that sharing knowledge with partner clubs is an option, but any movement of players will only be discussed further down the line - and only with Kenny's approval.

"We bring to the table a completely different level of investment and experience than anyone else who has invested in the League of Ireland before," continued Gardner ahead of a meeting with FAI hierarchy today.

"We feel confident and listening to Stephen Kenny, you can tell he feels confident.

"What Andy and Paul have done has been pretty remarkable but with our football knowledge, we feel that we can only elevate the club; we fully expect to be a perennial contender in Europe and to win the League of Ireland every year.

"I think for now everything is focused on one year. Beyond that we are looking three to five to seven years in each area. Again, we don't have all the answers right now. But the focus right now is short-term."

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