The much awaited premier league of Sierra Leone will kick-off with fireworks on March 21st after the signing of a US$50,000 (approximately Le155 million) Comium-led sponsorship package last Thursday.
Comium, the National Aids Secretariat, Guinness and three Banks, GTB, UBA and FIB are sponsoring as a consortium for the 2009 season which will be known as the “Salone Premier League”.
But, apart from the cash sum,Comium who were instrumental to bring on board the other partners, will be providing more to the Premier League by providing among other things text messaging based revenue and the company’s existing media channels to boost the league’s publicity.
Ports Authority, the 2008 Champions will play against runner –up Kallon FC for the first Super Cup match ever, which will double as a league game. The winner between the rivals will at the end of the full or extra time lift the Super Cup but only the result after 90 minutes will determine the point situation for the Premier League table.
An opening ceremony will precede the game which is expected to be witnessed by President Ernest Bai Koroma and many other dignitaries. The opening ceremony will be the fitting way to herald a new era of the league football in the country after many years of difficulties.
With the formation of the Premier League Board by the Sierra Leone Football Association, fans have been expecting rapid changes and expectations are further heightened after the new sponsorship partners, especially Comium who came on board to work together and change the face of the sport.
With all these partners now running the league, fans should expect new changes and innovations that will take Salone Premier League not only into their living rooms but also right to their finger tips using the latest mobile technology.
The opening weekend will kick-off with a bang with derbies across the country. After the Super Cup on Saturday, the country will come to a standstill on Sunday 22 March with the Salone League version of the Classico when East End Lions meet arch rivals Mighty Blackpool.
Both sides finished in the top five last season. Even though their dominance in the league has slightly diminished especially by Kallon FC and Ports Authority, and to some extent Central Parade, Blackpool and Lions remain the biggest supporting sides and most successfull.
It was the match that was pulling the largest crowds in football matches but the civil war in the country and other factors saw few fans turning out for the national derby.
On the same day Sunday, Kamboi Eagles will make a return to the Premier League from the first Division when they host Diamond Stars in Kenema for the Eastern Region derby.
In their hey days Kamboi Eagles played in one of the African competitions about 25 years ago, while Diamond Stars also made headlines in the late 1980’s also participating in one continental championship.
The two Bo sides, Rangers and Nepean Stars will square up at the Coronation Grounds to earn bragging rights for the rest of the season at least in Bo town. In Magburaka.Wusum Stars will be the guests of Golden Dragons.
Another newcomer but without any doubt a giant side are Real Republicans who are back from the first division. They have represented Sierra Leone in many international competitions in the early 1980’s and their nickname was the soccer Ambassadors and they will announce their return against Central Parade the following weekend.
The same day Old Edwardians will play against Mount Aureol Galaxy. The premier league 2009 will be played on a one round basis and it will end on 28 June.
Understandably all the sponsorship partners that form the consortium are delighted that the league will kick-off soon and the parties are going to speak with one voice.
The brain behind the consortium Paul Hyde of Comium says his company is particularly committed to see Sierra Leoneans have something to cheer about after all these years.
This group of companies would enter into the history books of Sierra Leone to mark the development of football and resonate forever in the minds of the people. Hyde said
“at a crucial time like this when Sierra Leonean football needs a new face and also involving the youths into meaningful activity, Comium and partners are delighted to put in place the necessary mechanism for the future of the sport.”
“Comium has succeeded to bring together the best of reliable and dependable companies to associate with the Salone Premier League. In fact, the consortium seeks to add more companies with equal standing to get involved” Hyde explained.
Paul Hyde said that he is aware that the task ahead of the sponsorship partners and the Premier League Board is enormous but he can envisage the Sierra Leone Premier League football earning respect again – first among its own people and then garner some international attention.
“We would certainly work around the clock, utilizing the latest marketing strategies. There would be plenty of information during the season and we believe the fans would fill the stadium and make a return to the venues again” Hyde concluded.