Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Stephen Beacom: It’s time for a united front for the good of local football

Billy McIlroy, one of the men behind Dunloy FC’s proposals to shake up local football, was a man alone last night as their proposals fell at the IFA’s extraordinary general meeting

So, another Irish FA farce ends in, well, a farce. We should have known.

Even when the right decision has been reached within the IFA, there is a feeling they got there the wrong way.

But, hey, after too many dark days for football’s governing body in recent times, let’s look on the bright side.

The millions that could have been lost to the game in Northern Ireland at last night’s EGM are still there, ready and waiting to be collected if the IFA can show it is a fit for purpose body.

The EGM, which for the first hour was a fractious affair, came about after junior club Dunloy put together numerous proposals for inclusion in the articles of association. Quite a number were contentious, not least the aim to decrease the influence of senior clubs on decision-making committees and reduce the number of independent members on the supposedly all-powerful IFA Executive Board.

The latter did not go down well with Sports Minister Nelson McCausland and all at the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL). After the IFA had lost £500,000 over the unfair dismissal case of former chief executive Howard Wells, McCausland had demanded an independent review of the IFA and the removal of president Raymond Kennedy and vice-president David Martin before public funds would be handed over.

Changing structures, as one Dunloy proposal suggested, before the review was conducted was effectively seen as calling the Minister’s bluff. He said as much in a statement earlier this week. Bad idea. Especially with £23million on the table for the upgrading of Windsor Park.

The government money was discussed when Dunloy’s representatives attended what they described as a positive meeting with DCAL yesterday.

When the controversial proposals came on the agenda, Dunloy, withdrew them on legal advice. They had already agreed with senior clubs to withdraw one contentious article, but were on unaware that on the back of that other articles would have to be withdrawn as well. You couldn’t make it up.

So after all the build-up, we didn’t get the big vote. All because of an error. It had to be. This is the IFA!

Instead of the big showdown, what we got was effectively a waste of time, especially for those delegates who had travelled all over the country to be at the Stormont hotel.

Dunloy had desperately tried to railroad their ideas through but when it came to the crunch, it simply didn’t happen.

There was a feeling that Dunloy representatives wanted to teach the senior clubs a lesson.

In the end, it was they who learned that every detail must be considered in an EGM.

So, what now for the IFA?

Get that independent review completed, get rid of Kennedy and get the money from government to help football. Most of all the IFA needs to get itself sorted out. It really is about time that those involved in football here come together as one... for the good of the game.

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