Westlife and Michael D Higgins are to front a campaign by the Football Association of Ireland (fai) to improve attendances at League of Ireland football matches.

With an increasing number of clubs in financial difficulties, the Sunday Tribune has learned that Westlife singers Mark Feehily and Nicky Byrne (the latter a former player with Leeds United), along with Labour's Foreign Affairs spokesman, are to front a radio and press campaign whose aim is to battle the recession and bring more people through the gates at domestic football games.

Part of the FAI's €5m spend on the League of Ireland, the campaign will kick off when the new season starts on 6 March and features the tag line "Real football. Real fans."

A spokesman for The FAI told the Sunday Tribune "It's all about raising awareness about the League of Ireland among the footballing public. What we're trying to do is increase attendances at our football matches."

However, the FAI have denied that the campaign was an attempt to get Irish soccer fans to give up their cross channel love of English and Scottish soccer giants.

"We don't have a problem with people watching teams in other leagues. All we ask is why not on a Friday night go and see your local League of Ireland club playing soccer?" the spokesperson added.

Broadcaster Tom Dunne and Claire Byrne are other well-known names recruited for the campaign but the FAI said they were in the process of recruiting celebrities from other parts of Irish public life.