Acun Ilıcalı: ‘My first aim is to make the fans happy’

Tolka Park

Tolka Park before a match Credit: Paul Dolan (ETPhotos)

Luke Jordan reporting from the Aviva Stadium

The media gathered on Friday afternoon in Dublin 4 as Shelbourne’s new majority owner Acun Ilıcalı was unveiled at a press conference. 

The Turkish media mogul who is the owner of global media company ACUNMEDYA, became the majority shareholder in Shelbourne earlier this month. 

Ilıcalı, who is also the owner of English side Hull City stated his excitement of being the custodian of one of Ireland’s oldest football clubs. 

“First, I’m very excited. This is not a story that happened in two days, four days, five days. This is a story that took so many months to decide and make this operation for this big club. We are happy everything is signed, and we are the owners”. 

"I feel great energy from the city and the country”, said Ilıcalı. “"I believe good people always win. There are so many good people here."

Ilıcalı proclaimed he wanted to engage with the fanbase and make them happy. When discussing his targets for the club stated his ambition to return the club back to its glory days to the “big success of that happened in the past”. 

The 54-year-old believes the club is not far away from attaining the achievements of the noughties under the tenure of Dermot Keely and Pat Fenlon. 

The vision outlined by the new owner is one that can thrill the Shelbourne fanbase as he voiced his aspiration for future European success. Many Reds fans still remember the highs of the magic European nights defeating the likes of HNK Hajduk Split at Tolka Park. 

On why he decided to invest in the League of Ireland and in particular Shelbourne, he revealed that his operation had been looking for another club to acquire to add to his portfolio, “To be more stronger in football, (and) more hopeful in football, we needed another club”. 

The new Shelbourne owner declared that they had been researching and looking at clubs in Belgium, Portugal, and here in Ireland, with Dundalk rumoured to been in negotiations previously with Ilıcalı, but he believes that he has now discovered the right opportunity to which he described as a ‘hidden treasure in Dublin and it’s called Shelbourne”.

His goal is to improve Shels on and off the pitch, using the example of the TV channels he has bought in the media world and how they are now of a ‘higher standard’. 

On his track record as a football club owner, he referred to his time at Hull City as a ‘good success’ the past two years and referred to the rise in attendances since his arrival in Yorkshire. Going from approximately 8,000 fans a week to around 20,000 at the end of the 2022/23 Championship season. 

He confirmed the club will not be a feeder club to Hull City. While there could be possible transfers between the two clubs, he was quick to remind the audience that the clubs will remain as individual clubs. 

On the issue of Tolka Park and how much investment will be spent on the stadium, he quipped he “wasn’t the money man!” but mentioned his drive to make people happy with 

the team, which included having them more organised with higher quality facilities. 

Vice-Chairman Andrew Doyle confirmed that despite the new investment in the club, they remained committed to purchasing Tolka Park from Dublin City Council.

Ilıcalı thinks there is much similarity between the Irish and Turkish people stating they are both passionate and honest working people with today being the start of a new journey with Shelbourne as they look forward to a ‘brighter future’ and ‘enjoy happy days together’.