Belfast Telegraph

New Uefa posts solid proof that IFA are on the right track

By Jim Gracey

Irish FA chiefs have been given a major vote of confidence by European football's ruling body Uefa, ahead of a crucial decision of the future direction of the game here tonight.

A new-look IFA hopes to be finally deemed 'fit for purpose' (massive grants, in other words) by Government paymasters in a vote on changes to the way the association is run at their AGM this evening.

But already their moves towards restructuring have been recognised by Uefa who have now doubled IFA representation on key committees.

The IFA will now have a voice on five Uefa committees, with four representatives, compared to two when six months of turmoil kicked off at Windsor Avenue a year ago this week.

The past six months of rejuvenation have seen new President Jim Shaw and Chief Executive Patrick Nelson head up a remarkable drive towards restoring the IFA's credibility in the wake of former President Raymond Kennedy's forced departure over the £400,000 loss to football from his unfair dismissal of past Chief Executive Howard Wells.

Attempts by Wells to reform the IFA and secure financial backing from Government were thwarted by the old guard.

But Shaw and Nelson have somehow worked the oracle to secure broad agreement for the proposals of an independent review body that should see the IFA run more efficiently, with positions filled on merit as opposed to the past back-scratching basis.

A 'yes' vote tonight will also be the signal for a Government funding release to aid projects, including the Windsor Park reconstruction, that will in turn benefit all levels of football from revenues raised.

In that respect the IFA top brass have been boosted by the news of their increased influence at Uefa, as sign they are getting their house in order.

Former President Jim Boyce, having recently been elevated to one of world football's top jobs as Fifa vice-President, has now also been awarded two Uefa posts.

Boyce will chair the Uefa youth and amateur committee, which administers those levels of football throughout Europe, and also serve as deputy chair of the medical committee.

Current President Shaw will join the disciplinary committee, ruling on issues across Europe.

Neil Jardine, of the Fermanagh and Western FA, has been appointed to the quaintly-named hat-trick committee, responsible for allocating funds from European competition profits.

And Patrick Nelson goes onto the media committee, which not only deals with media relations, but also oversees TV rights deals.

High level recognition of their capabilities does show that the new regime has got the IFA back on the right track with a 'yes' vote tonight going a long way towards winning the confidence of Government and the football public.

A small pocket of resistance, determined to hold on to perks and positions, may yet have to be overcome. But the soundings coming from all levels of the game, from grassroots through to senior, is that most seem prepared to jump together for the common good to secure that Government nod of approval and, more importantly, the crucial funding needed to take the IFA and football forward.

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