Belfast Telegraph

At long last, IFA is now fit for purpose

By Graham Luney

The Irish Football Association has had so many bust-ups and scandals in recent years that it would make a compelling and explosive soap opera.

But now the football body is telling fans they are embracing change and a “new culture” with the latest transformation expected to emerge from the report of the Independent Governance Review Team.

The review, chaired by Timothy Quin, has now been released for public consultation, but some supporters still feel they are not being kept informed of important developments.

And given the IFA’s tendency to score own goals in the past, the fans will reserve judgement.

It’s one thing changing structures and procedures, it’s another thing changing mindsets as some individuals will be motivated by the pursuit of power while others will always want to fight for their own interests whether that is at junior or senior level.

Chief Executive Patrick Nelson will be the key decision-maker at the top of the IFA tree but he was on holiday yesterday, leaving President Jim Shaw and Dr Leslie Caul, Chairman of the IFA Executive Board, to be quizzed by the media alongside two authors of the report, Quin, former Touche Ross NI chairman and partner in Deloitte Touche, and George Cummings, current senior consultant for the Asian Football Confederation.

Former senior civil servant David Watkins, who completed the three-man panel carrying out the review of IFA structure and governance, was also unavailable yesterday but it was an opportunity for those present to outline their hopes for the future after learning lessons from the past.

The IFA got themselves in a real mess when Raymond Kennedy was voted out as president with the threat of government funding being removed if he stayed in power.

A damning Sport NI report into the sacking of former Chief Executive Howard Wells, which cost the IFA over £400,000 in settlement of his unfair dismissal claim, was proof that structures and behaviour had to change.

Shaw maintains the report, which was commissioned by the IFA, shows that the wind of change has struck the organisation.

“We believe we have reached the stage, and it has been proven by outsiders, that we are a well-run organisation and our financial controls are in good shape,” he argued.

“What is coming out substantiates the fact that we are a strong organisation to start with, but we see this as taking us into the future and to the next stage.

“This is about the UK code of governance and how it should be applied to the Irish FA to ensure that we are fit for purpose.”

Quin also sounded a positive note, adding: “The organisation has clearly learned from its difficulties. What led to an EGM last year (when Dunloy proposals were discussed) was a sense of frustration amongst the membership.

“We felt there was a need for better communication and accountability from the Board back to the members. We feel it is very important that Council acts as a parliament for the game, representing members and holding the Board and Executive to account.”

George Cummings said: “The IFA, administratively, is a very high-quality organisation. This is about building blocks and planned evolution.”

In response to fans’ criticisms of not being consulted over the proposals, Cummings said: “We have set out an open invitation to everyone to share their thoughts with us and that’s not changed,” while Shaw added: “I would not like to think anyone should be disaffected. We are happy to talk to anyone.”

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph