Salmond salutes 'homecoming' cup deal

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The Independent Football

First Minister Alex Salmond has described the Scottish Cup as the "jewel in the crown" of Scotland's Homecoming celebrations after securing a sponsorship partnership with the Scottish Football Association.

This season's tournament will be known as the Homecoming Scottish Cup after Glasgow businessman Willie Haughey donated the branding rights of his £2mi, two-year sponsorship package to the Scottish Government.

The cup will be used to promote the Homecoming tourism drive, which has been designed to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns.

The trophy will then become a vehicle to promote healthy living and good citizenship.

Salmond said: "Thanks to the generosity of Willie Haughey, it's given us a no-brainer as a government.

"His sponsorship allows us to get across a whole range of really important messages, about football for all, citizenship through football, healthy living, participation and lifestyle choices, anti-sectarianism. As well as the Homecoming Scottish Cup - a jewel in the crown of the Homecoming initiative next year.

"There is nothing as big as football in Scotland, this is our national sport.

"I think the Scottish Cup is the best club competition in the world, and just remember the Homecoming Scottish Cup will be broadcast in 40 nations - Australia, Canada, New Zealand.

"Everybody interested in Scotland wants to know what's happening in the Scottish Cup, so it's a great platform for the Homecoming message.

"That's exactly our target audience, people coming back to Scotland, perhaps to see a round in the Scottish Cup or participate in some of the other 150 events."

In the week when Scotland's two biggest banks were bailed out by the Westminster Government, Salmond added: "In tough times, and everyone knows times are tough, everyone has to rally round, and all credit to Willie Haughey, he is rallying round by backing football."

The £1m-per-year deal, which may be extended beyond two years, will allow the SFA to divert money into youth football following a near 18-month search for a replacement to former sponsor Tennent's.

SFA president George Peat said: "We have a real chance to work with our partners in government to use the cup to make a difference to Scotland and the lives of people right across the country.

"Willie Haughey deserves our support and thanks. His investment will mean that even more money can be spent on developing young footballers across Scotland."

Haughey has a long association with Scottish football having served as a Celtic director and financial backer of Livingston.

The owner of City Refrigeration has recently been involved in the redevelopment of Lesser Hampden and was looking for a way to fund youth football after the financial crisis hit plans for an academy in Bothwell.

He said: "We all want Scotland to prosper, our people to be healthier and, of course, to keep on producing great footballers. I made this investment so we can work to make this happen."