Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Windsor Park row is own-goal by IFA

Northern Ireland's fans are dejected after being defeated 3-2 by Luxembourg in Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Northern Ireland's fans are dejected after being defeated 3-2 by Luxembourg in Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Luxembourg's Mathias Janisch celebrates scoring the winner against Northern Ireland during Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Northern Ireland's Martin Patterson is dejected after being defeated 3-2 by Luxembourg in Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Gareth McAuley scores during this evenings 2014 World Cup qualifier between Luxembourg and Northern Ireland at the Stade Josy Barthel, Luxembourg. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Luxembourg's Aurelien Joachim with Northern Ireland's Oliver Norwood during Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Northern Ireland's fans are dejected after being defeated 3-2 by Luxembourg in Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Northern Ireland's Roy Carroll is dejected at the end of the match during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Estade Josy Barthel, Luxembourg.
Northern Ireland fan is dejected after being defeated 3-2 by Luxembourg in Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Bensi scores during the 2014 World Cup qualifier between Luxembourg and Northern Ireland at the Stade Josy Barthel, Luxembourg. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill during Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Luxembourg's Chris Phillips with Northern Ireland's Jamie Ward during Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Northern Ireland fans during Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Luxembourg's Aurelien Joachim celebrates scoring against Northern Ireland during Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.
Northern Ireland's Roy Carroll is dejected at the end of the match as he removes his goalkeepers top during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Estade Josy Barthel, Luxembourg.
Northern Ireland's Martin Paterson celebrates scoring against Luxembourg during Tuesday nights World Cup qualifier at the Stade Josy Barthel stadium, Luxembourg.

When the plans for a national sports stadium at the Maze fell through there was an immediate bonus for the three big teams sports here – rugby, soccer and GAA.

Each of them were promised substantial funding to develop their flagship grounds. Since then rugby and GAA have gone full steam ahead with redevelopment plans at Ravenhill and Casement Park respectively. But the international football stadium at Windsor Park continues to crumble thanks to an unseemly row between the Irish Football Association and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

At the centre of the row is one man, David Martin, who was elected deputy president of the Association last week. This row goes back to 2010 when DCAL said it could not release the promised £25m of funding while Mr Martin and the then President of the IFA remained in office. Both men stepped down.

But Mr Martin, who since then has failed three competency tests ordered by the government for IFA office-bearers, got back into office after the tests were dropped by the soccer body.

Many fans will wonder why the IFA dropped these tests which had been a precondition of funding. DCAL had asked for the tests over concerns about the association's governance. Others may raise eyebrows at a Sinn Fein minister refusing a grant to a soccer body.

But the minister certainly has a right to question if the governance and accountability of any body she funds – sporting or otherwise – stands up to scrutiny. This is, after all, public money.

She has asked the IFA to get its house in order as quickly as possible. The IFA has promised to do so but there remains the problem of Mr Martin, if he is, indeed, the sticking point. He was democratically elected to the post and is entitled to occupy it. He has not done anything illegal. So, however the matter is sorted, it should be done so quickly so that a run-down stadium can be redeveloped to a standard in keeping with its international status.

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