Carrick Rangers: Investment in club 'a passion project' for American businessman Michael Smith

Sports Direct Irish Premiership - Carrick Rangers v Dungannon Swifts

Date: Friday, 1 September Venue: Loughview Leisure Arena Kick-off: 19:45 BST

Coverage: Live on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app from 19:30 BST; live text commentary with in-game clips on the BBC Sport website and app

American businessman Michael Smith, who last week became a majority shareholder in Carrick Rangers, says his involvement with the Irish Premiership club is "a passion project" for him.

Smith is currently in Northern Ireland and watched the east Antrim club's 3-3 draw with Linfield on Saturday.

"This is something that I'm going to measure in terms of return in investment by the amount of joy I get out of it," explained Smith.

"I'm thrilled to be here."

He added: "It's about making an impact and building a legacy for the community and for the supporters."

Carrick have described the American as a "seasoned leader" in the business world, who has worked in a number of areas including technology, commercial and operations.

Smith, who hails from Portland, Oregon, is currently the chief information officer of The Estee Lauder Companies and has previously worked as a senior executive with leading global companies including Nike, where he spent 22 years.

'A dream of mine for a long time'

He concedes that his interest in an Irish League club which has oscillated between the top flight and second tier of the Northern Ireland domestic game in recent years "seems a bit left field".

"This is something that has been a dream of mine for a long time and I've looked into off and on for many years," Smith told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"I looked into a lot of different clubs, did research into different leagues and the Irish League is a fantastic product that I don't think people necessarily appreciate.

"I was working with an intern doing some research and they identified the Irish League as up and coming and evolving. As I started doing my research it became clear that really was the case.

"It's a phenomenal product, it's proper football and the level of play is great."

Sustainability key

Carrick have indicated that Smith will primarily bring a wealth of marketing experience and a strategy which will bring in increased revenue streams to the club and achieve sustainable growth.

He will work alongside the existing Board of Directors, including chairman Peter Clarke.

"We want to run a long-term sustainable growth model for sure. I'm making personal financial investment and will look to leverage my network in terms of sponsors and other connections," Smith emphasised.

"I'm not going to throw a tonne of money going after a brief moment of glory and then jeopardise the future of the club. We are looking to run a profitable club.

"I'm investing in the vision that Peter and the Board have already put in place, the strong foundation they are building and the progress they've made in the last five years."

Smith believes the Irish League will continue to grow and the Taylors Avenue-based outfit will continue to thrive and be competitive on the pitch following their eighth-place finish in the top flight last season in which they amassed 40 points, the highest total ever achieved by the club in the top flight.

"I think as the league grows it's going to monetise itself with more people coming to the games, sitting in the stands and more eyeballs on the television.

"As a club we're going to continue to build, get better every day on the pitch and contribute to the community.

"I don't believe you should step on the pitch unless your goal is to lift silverware but we also have to be realistic about where we are."

Carrick have won one, drawn one and lost three of their first five matches this campaign and entertain Dungannon Swifts on Friday night in a match which will be broadcast live on BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app.