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New IFA President has big questions to answer and must prove his worth

By Steven Beacom

Published 29/06/2016

David Martin has taken over as President of the Irish FA
David Martin has taken over as President of the Irish FA

It's official now. David Martin has taken over as President of the Irish FA.

After the huge strides made by Northern Ireland football at the Euro 2016 finals, one couldn't help but wonder if the IFA Council's decision last night to vote in controversial figure Martin as the new figurehead for the sport was a backward step.

Martin's election to one of the most prominent posts in Northern Ireland sport marks a dramatic comeback for a man who left his position in the IFA six years ago after then Sports Minister Nelson McCausland deemed the organisation not fit for purpose.

In 2010 Martin, at that point the IFA treasurer, and President Raymond Kennedy had to leave the Association with McCausland making it clear football's governing body would not be handed any of the £26m for the redevelopment of Windsor Park while the pair were in office.

They had been strongly criticised in an independent report into the departure of chief executive Howard Wells, who took an unfair dismissal case that cost the IFA £500,000.

After exiting, Martin was determined to return to the IFA, but failed three competency tests carried out by independent commissions, as requested by government when anyone wished to become an office bearer in the Association.

Despite his desire to become a big hitter in the IFA again, there seemed no way back.

That was until the IFA AGM in 2013 in Enniskillen when a motion was passed that it was not a requirement to complete a competency test to become an office bearer.

Later that year, despite concern from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and fury from Northern Ireland fans who protested at a home international, Martin was elected deputy president on the back of a unanimous vote at a meeting of the IFA Council.

DCAL issued a statement declaring that the IFA's removal of the suitability test was a retrograde step which could breach the funding agreement for Windsor Park.

As it turned out the public funding was not affected and the money was made available to modernise the stadium.

It is ironic that later this year the new Windsor Park, funded by that government money, should be complete with Martin at the head of the IFA table after finally realising his Presidential dream last night.

In many ways the IFA are fortunate that Martin's election comes at a time with more people interested in talking about what the men in green shirts did in France rather than what those in dark suits have done in Belfast.

But even so there remain serious questions to answer.

Not least from the new President himself, who has a reputation for being reluctant to talk to the media.

He has to prove himself worthy of the prestigious and important role, succeeding Jim Shaw who with his steadying influence was the ideal captain for a ship that was rocking when he took over the helm.

Martin says he wants to grow the game at all levels.

If these are exciting times for the Northern Ireland football team, it will be interesting to see how the new President goes about his business at the IFA.

Belfast Telegraph

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