Belfast Telegraph

Prodigal son in return to IFA?

By Steven Beacom

Irish FA President Jim Shaw has declared that he has no issue with the prospect of controversial former treasurer David Martin returning to a high profile position at Windsor Avenue.

The comments will cause concern at the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) and Sport NI who are keeping a close eye on this developing story.

Last month the Belfast Telegraph broke the news that the IFA were risking incurring the wrath of government and possibly losing millions of pounds worth of funding with the potential comeback of Martin to an influential role.

Now we can reveal that Martin has gathered enough support within the IFA in recent weeks to place him as favourite to be elected to the new post of Deputy President.

Just when you thought the IFA was getting its act together comes this alarming twist which will stun those in government circles.

Only last year the then President, Raymond Kennedy, and Martin had to leave the IFA with the Sports Minister at the time, Nelson McCausland, making it clear the association would not get any money for improving Windsor Park while the pair were in office.

They had been strongly criticised in an independent report into the unfair dismissal of Chief Executive Howard Wells in 2008, costing the IFA a whopping £500,000.

With Kennedy and Martin in situ, the IFA was effectively deemed NOT fit for purpose. They both left under a cloud, but it had a silver lining for football here with the government, in conjunction with Sport NI, agreeing to release £25 million to upgrade Windsor Park and another £36 million to improve other stadia around the country.

Eyebrows, quite rightly, are now being raised in DCAL and Sport NI at the prospect of Martin's return in the Deputy President's role which was created when at the last IFA AGM it was decided to dispense with the treasurer's role and the two vice-president positions, occupied by Jack Grundie and Terry Pateman.

Grundie and Pateman, like Martin, have been nominated for the new post and will fight it out for votes from the IFA's Executive Council on October 17.

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, Martin refused to answer questions., saying only: “My nomination is in and that's all I have to say on the matter.”

DCAL and Sport NI do not wish to make a public statement about the issue at the moment, but don't expect them to stay silent for long if Martin is elected.

It would be seen as a slap in the face to both bodies, who have worked hard with the IFA, in order that millions of pounds worth of public money could be handed over, even in the current financial climate.

It's understood the IFA have already received some of the £61 million package, though President Shaw says he is confident that regardless of who becomes Deputy President the money will not be taken away.

Shaw said: “I have no issue with any of the three people nominated for the position. The vote will take place on October 17 and all three are eligible to stand.

“I hope and and am confident it won’t affect the finances. We are well down the line with that in hoping to achieve what we set out to achieve.”

If Shaw is correct and a Martin victory doesn't take any money away from the current upgrading of Windsor, there will still be fears amongst football fans that those at Stormont and Sport NI won't be so generous in the future.

Election for Martin would cost the IFA goodwill and could cost them capital in years to come.

Shaw has provided the IFA with a steady hand since taking over as President from Kennedy, but he is facing his first two major tests.

There is the future of the Northern Ireland manager to sort out, be it Nigel Worthington or not, and also who will be working alongside him and Chief Executive Patrick Nelson as Deputy President.

Shaw (pictured) would be advised to take a lead and talk to his old friend Martin and advise him to withdraw from the race. Nelson too, has to be pro-active and make some noise, while IFA Council members should seriously consider their votes if it comes to that.

Otherwise the IFA are in danger of facing the type of embarrassment, ridicule and questions they thought they had left behind.

Belfast Telegraph


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