Liverpool legend Ian Rush part of network seeking to invest in north Belfast side Crusaders FC

Liverpool legend Ian Rush in Dublin 
Credit: INPHO / Bryan Keane 
Dated: Saturday 1 February 2020
The move could see Crusaders link up with 15 other academies operated by Ian Rush. Credit: INPHO / Bryan Keane

North Belfast football club Crusaders could be set to receive a "significant investment" of £2.5million from an international sports network linked to Liverpool legend Ian Rush.

Rush, known for his stints as a striker with Liverpool between 1980 and 1996, is a key shareholder in iRama, the consortium considering buying a majority stake in the Shore Road-based club.

If accepted, the move would see Crusaders change from a wholly fan-owned club to a shareholder model and also see the side link up with 15 other academies operated by the Liverpool legend.

Season ticket-owning members of the club were briefed on the proposals and given the chance to discuss them at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on Thursday evening.

While a decision was not taken, it is understood the proposals were well received and members voted to meet again to determine their course on Thursday 24 March.

The chair of Crusaders FC said after receiving the details of the proposals, members should "take time to consider it before returning to determine our view."

Ronnie Millar continued: "Crusaders is owned and run by its season ticket owning members and the decision is theirs to make.

"That said, many members can see that new wealth in the League is forcing others to reflect. The one thing that is certain is that standing still is not an option.”

Crusaders Treasurer Tommy Whiteside said that the "finance on offer will not be for first team development only".

He continued: "It will be a balanced investment in the senior teams, sports science, youth development and facilities.

"Our investors will contribute significantly to help us develop new facilities and new income streams – football and non-football related – which will grow the club in the medium to long term."

Mr Whiteside added: "We believe we have an investor who will be a partner for the long term, committed to travelling on a journey with us.

"Together, we can improve our business and commit to investing in the grassroots of the game”. While recognising that the move from fan-owned to shareholder governance as "a big change", the vice-chair of Crusaders doesn't "believe it will change [their] mission".

Mark Langhammer added: "Our model will stay local at its core, but look internationally, too.

"The wide range of social programmes run through our 'Crusaders in the Community' arm will continue and grow.

"Our investors will not only help with income streams. They are committed and focused on reinvesting in the grassroots of the game.”

Crusaders was founded in 1898, and has played out of Seaview since 1921.

The side is fifth in the Irish Premiership table, as of Friday afternoon.