Belfast Telegraph

Resignations own goal leaves IFA’s foundations crumbling

Like the dilapidated stand at Windsor Park, the IFA is in a mess after Raymond Kennedy and David Martin both resigned

Heard the one about the president who resigned, reconsidered, then resigned again? No? Not surprising, although it’s a scandal that has been filling the sports pages for days and goes right to the heart of how football is run in Northern Ireland.

After a turbulent week the Irish Football Association is facing its worst crisis yet.

A resignations fiasco involving some of the IFA’s most senior figures is the nadir of a disastrous two-year debacle that has already cost more than £500,000, put around £23m of future investment in jeopardy and left the governing body in a total mess.

On Monday local football was thrown into turmoil when four members of the IFA’s executive board announced they were standing down.

President Raymond Kennedy, vice-president David Martin, honorary treasurer Neil Jardine and board member Jim Shaw tendered their resignations in a move that left the IFA committee without sufficient numbers to take decisions.

But after a day of frantic meetings on Tuesday the saga took another twist when Kennedy agreed to reconsider his position. Martin, Jardine and Shaw were, however, out the exit door.

Less than 24 hours later and the entire mess was up in the air again with the IFA issuing another statement. This time it confirmed Kennedy was relinquishing his position for a second time — but not until a special meeting of the organisation’s council next month.

The farce is the latest in a string of public relations blunders which have stemmed from the controversial sacking of former IFA chief executive Howard Wells two years ago.

After he was sacked Mr Wells took legal action against his former employers and received a six-figure sum in an out-of-court settlement. Even though the IFA, which had only made a £60,000 profit in 2008, was left financially crippled, Kennedy defiantly retained his position.

Since then pressure has continued to build on both Kennedy and Martin to step down. Another blow came in the form of an independent report on behalf of the Government into the IFA’s handling of the Wells dismissal.

The report, which was highly critical of Kennedy and Martin, prompted the Sports Minister to wade into the row. Nelson McCausland said he would withhold £23m of funding for upgrading Windsor Park if the IFA did not put its house in order.

And an exasperated Mr McCausland, who now wants the IFA to undergo a complete revamp, summed up the mood of football fans when he said: “If it wasn’t so ridiculous, it would at times be funny — but it’s not, it is a sad situation.”

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