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Football: Walker raps League over sponsorship.

Byline: By DARREN FULLERTON

BBC Radio Ulster football pundit Roy Walker has slammed the Irish Premier League for failing to secure sponsorship for the new Irish League season.

Speaking on Saturday's first-ever Fans Phone-in on Radio Ulster's Sportsound on Saturday afternoon, Walker accused the Irish Football Association's Irish Premier League committee of "gross mismanagement" after it lost the Daily Mirror as its main sponsor.

The former Crusaders title-winning manager said Premier League chiefs should have "taken the offer on the table from the Daily Mirror" and not played financial brinkmanship with its main sponsor.

"How can you reject a fixed and firm offer if you do not have another fixed and firm offer on the table?" he asked.

"If there is hard cash on the table, you should accept the offer you have. It's gross mismanagement."

Walker claimed the IPL's decision to effectively price the Daily Mirror out of negotiations was also a "slight on the Daily Mirror that their good, hard-earned offer has been rejected".

He added: "The Daily Mirror have been good sponsors of the league and the blame (for a lack of sponsorship in the league) lies fairly and squarely with the people who have priced themselves out of the game".

Walker's comments - which are sure to cause some red faces at IFA headquarters - have found the support of the majority of Irish League supporters.

One told Saturday's Sportsound phone-in the Daily Mirror had helped raised the profile of the local game with its coverage and claimed the decision to end the deal was a backward step for the league.

He said the lack of sponsor for the Irish League launch last week was a "big letdown" and an "absolute shambles".

Another added: "The Daily Mirror's new-style coverage of the Irish League and their Monday pull-out in particular forced other newspapers to raise their game.

"For too long the Irish League had been fed a diet of the same-old from newspapers who helped oversee the decline in interest in the local game."

Meanwhile, the next Sportsound Fans Phone-In, which will be hosted by Joel Taggart, is on Radio Ulster this Saturday at 5.30pm. Phone comments on 08459 555678, text 81771 or send your emails to Sportsound.ni@bbc.co.uk

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DAMNING: Walker
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 20, 2005
Words:378
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