Sligo Rovers can today announce one of the most significant community projects in our history with every baby born in Sligo University Hospital this year offered a Rovers jersey on the day they enter the world.
The project, headed by the club and The Bit O’ Red Supporters Trust in conjunction with Sligo University Hospital, will see over 1,000 Rovers jerseys donated to families of newborns in Sligo and parts of Leitrim, Donegal, Roscommon, Cavan and Mayo.
The jersey is a replica of the 2021 home jersey, featuring all details of the famous Bit O’ Red shirt.
The project is a first for the League of Ireland.
Last season, during the pandemic year, the Sligo Rovers community fundraised €400,000 for the club.
Despite interactions among supporters and friends of the club coming to a standstill, the club remained at the heart of Sligo.
The Bit O’ Red successfully traded through the year thanks to will and spirit of all connected to our club. The club qualified for the UEFA Europa Conference League, coming from the bottom to finish fourth in just 14 games.
Ahead of another challenging season in which similar fundraising will be needed with no crowds, this initiative is designed to extend the bond between Rovers and the north-west and Connacht region, this time from the very earliest stage of life.
Sligo Rovers chief executive Colin Feehily said: “Sligo Rovers has existed through 93 years because each generation has passed their love of the club on to the next.
“We are very proud of what Rovers means to our region and how it can form a part of all our lives and connect us as well. We are taking this measure to bring that feeling to even more people.
“Sligo is unique in that, in normal times, when you walk the streets of the county, everywhere you go you see a Bit O’ Red. The crest and the Rovers colours are worn by our loyal and passionate fans of all ages.
“The idea stemmed from our Supporters Trust who helped make it happen. I’d also like to thank our sponsors for being very supportive in allowing us to make it logistically possible and financially viable. As well as our supporters, the business community has constantly backed us this last year.
“Most of all, we’re very happy to be bringing extra smiles to those in Sligo University Hospital. As we pass on these kits to the staff today to give to famliies, we want to express our huge gratitude to all of the employees at the hospital. Their work over this past year has been incredible. They have the admiration of everyone and thanks at The Showgrounds.”
Gerard O’Connor of the Bit O’ Red Supporters Trust said: “We saw a demand for a product like this and thought ‘how can we bring it to as many supporters as possible, as well as introducing Rovers to people who may previously not be fans?’
“The club and the Trust work together on many projects and I’m delighted it has come to fruition.
“We also hope it is something for families not from Sligo and who may be seeking a connection to the area. Now, as they grow their family, they are also Rovers fans as well.”
Sligo Rovers manager Liam Buckley said: “It’s a lovely idea. The community here get right behind the football club. Since I’ve been here, they’ve been absolutely fantastic. There’s an incredible support behind us and we do not take it for granted for one second.
“It’s hugely important traditions are passed down. I’m very proud to represent all of the people at this football club.
“We do miss the interactions with our supporters here and I can’t tell you how much we want them back with us.
“This is a great gesture that will add to the thousands of people who get behind us each and every week.”
Juliana Henry, Director of Midwifery at Sligo University Hospital added:
“This is a very novel idea and will be a lovely memento for the babies born in the hospital this year.
“We are very grateful to Sligo Rovers and the wider community in County Sligo and beyond for their ongoing support of the hospital.”
The project starts today, Monday March 15th and continues until the end of 2021.