‘Raymond Kennedy, your time at the IFA was a shambles’
Our man Steven Beacom goes head to head with departing IFA President Raymond Kennedy who blames us for his downfall
SB: It’s been a shocking week for the IFA. What on earth has been going on?
RK: Well, as I’m sure everyone knows four people handed in their resignations from the Executive Board (they were President Raymond Kennedy, vice President David Martin, treasurer Neil Jardine and Jim Shaw). On the back of that I went to the IFA offices and took legal advice. We had a conference call with our lawyer, our Chief Executive Patrick Nelson and William Campbell, who works closely with articles and procedures and quite frankly we didn’t know what the next move was. Our legal people advised us that we could not leave the IFA without governance or officers and that it would be best to get those who had resigned back on board.
SB: So, how come all four didn’t come back — you were the only one to withdraw your resignation?
RK: Last week there was a Council meeting when Council members asked all the Executive Board to resign.
I studied the situation over the weekend and felt my only option was to resign. Following the legal advice and keeping in mind that there was an EGM coming up and Council meetings I felt I should withdraw my resignation.
The problem with the rest was that for Jim Shaw there was no way back as he had addressed his letter to the Company Secretary, Morris Corrin. Neil Jardine had sent in an email with a scanned letter and signature on it. Patrick Nelson had received it and told Morris, so the solicitor concluded that the Company Secretary knew about it therefore that was a done deal and you couldn’t go back there, so that only left two people.
SB: That was yourself and David Martin?
RK: Yes, and in the interests of football I withdrew my resignation as I didn’t want to be seen as the person stopping the Board functioning.
SB: But David Martin didn’t follow you.
RK: I rung David and found that he wasn’t well. He had been in touch with Patrick Nelson and to my knowledge they had a one-to-one. Whatever transpired from that David told me that he was fed up with all the hassle, had been to see the doctor, said he wanted to get his life back and had told Patrick to let his letter stay in.
SB: Did you know at the time when you resigned from the Executive Board that you could no longer be President?
RK: To tell the truth I didn’t know what the ruling was and was probably aware that could be the case.
SB: As President, should you not have known the rule?
RK: Oh well, as I say the rule was, that once one thing went the whole lot went, right?
But there’s a difference of opinion there and you can sense that, but yes, I would have been aware.
SB: You've obviously been dealing with the Chief Executive Patrick Nelson a lot this week. How do you get on with him?
RK: Fine. Fine. Fine. I have no problem with Patrick Nelson. He’s obviously a hard wee worker, he knows where he’s going and therefore he's okay.
SB: What about the previous Chief Executive, Howard Wells, was there a personality clash?
RK: Absolutely not.
SB: So, you had a good relationship with him?
RK: Wells? Great. Great. Great. Capable man, good bearing, well turned out. We actually had an agreement, that when if I, or the IFA, was under pressure and me in particular, he was the man to take the flak.
SB: You went on to sack him though. Did you have the backing of the Executive Board?
RK: I had the unofficial backing of the board.
SB: But unofficial isn’t good enough, you need it to be official. Do you take the blame for losing the IFA £500,000.
SB: It looks to me like you were to blame and it said in the report commissioned by Sport NI and the IFA into the unfair dismissal case on Howard Wells that you were to blame.
It states you made, in your own words, ‘a make or break’ decision and that this flew in the face of legal advice.
RK: Well, that’s alright, but I know what happened and what went on. Yes, when the report came out, it was damning for me and David Martin for costing the IFA money, but I reckon the figure was £390,000 and no more than that.
SB: So, you’re saying it wasn’t around £500,000? (The figure mentioned in IFA accounts).
RK: No it wasn’t, but let me tell you something, it looked well to say half a million in a campaign against Raymond Kennedy and might I add, and I hope you would print this, that Jim Boyce was the IFA President when the IFA paid out £530,000 over the David Bowen case and there wasn’t a word about it.
SB: Moving forward, you’ll be leaving in September come what may.
SB: In the past you’ve said it’s subject to ratification by the IFA Council, so no matter what they say, you are going.
RK: The correct thing is that I’ll offer my resignation and I expect them to accept.
SB: So, you have that in September and also an EGM to decide on the Dunloy proposals to bring in change on how the IFA is structured. What are your thoughts on those proposals?
RK: Honestly, there are about 60 per cent of them that are the Board's proposals that didn’t go through the AGM.
SB: Do you think the Dunloy proposals will go ahead and go through?
RK: I wouldn’t be so sure. As I’ve said before, 60 per cent are okay. Some need a bit of tweaking here and there, but I believe they are reasonable.
SB: You have this belief that the media is too hard on you, don’t you?
RK: Yes, absolutely. Stuff has been put in the papers and I’m walking around my own area and around the country and people are saying to me this is not the Raymond Kennedy I know. Apart from the money issue, a lot of stuff has been totally over the top.
SB: I’m on record as saying it and I’ll say to you here face to face, your reign has been a shambles. What do you say to that?
RK: I’d like you to define that.
SB: Well, look at this week for example.
RK: This week? I’m not responsible.
SB: You’ve been resigning, then not resigning from the Executive Board.
Everyone has been wondering what’s going on.
RK: I was very clear in my mind from the word go. And I must blame the papers here. I was asked on the third day of July to leave in September and they (IFA) issued a statement and David Martin was asked to go there and then. I can tell you where the shambles lay. The Board leaked and this after the Board said that they wanted me to leave with dignity as I had done a reasonable job at the IFA.
They said you have been with the IFA for 35 years, never took a penny, everything voluntary. You see when I was doing Wells’s job (as Chief Executive) I was doing 60 hours a week, up and down that road from Limavady for zero — not a penny and they said you should leave with dignity at the Council meeting in September.
You are one of the press that have had a go at me. You were very critical of me getting us a friendly in Albania.
SB: Yes, I thought it was a ridiculous game to take on.
RK: Well, I’ll challenge you to go and get me opposition for our next friendly.
SB: I’m not the IFA President. It’s not my job.
RK: Well, I’ll tell you now nobody wants to play unless you are paying them big money. Albania was the last place we wanted to go, but it was our only option at that time. It was a case of saying to the manager friendly or no friendly and he wanted a game so we went.
People talk about losing money, but I landed the IFA £200,000 for a friendly game in Pisa with Italy. If those games came along every day, you’d be alright, but they don’t.
SB: The good thing is Raymond come September you’ll not have to worry about it because you’ll not be President and won’t have to arrange games.
Okay, let’s move on do you have any regrets now that your tenure is coming to an end?
RK: No, I enjoyed every minute of it. I do regret the way I’ve been treated and being hounded out by the press, but there’s more to life than football.
SB: I’ve described your time as President as embarrassing and often unbelievable, and others have also been fiercely critical of you. I wonder what do you see as your legacy to the Irish FA and football in Northern Ireland.
RK: I take great pride in all the community work going on at the IFA, grass roots football is going well, we’ve provided new facilities to senior Irish League clubs, gave them new pitches, stands and lights. I hear senior clubs going on about their hardship, but did you know only two senior clubs out of 13 — I’m including Donegal Celtic and Institute in that 13 — didn’t get new lights in the last two years in my time.
Internationally I believe we are on the right track.
I also brought Linfield back to the table to discuss the Windsor Park stadium issue which was very important for the future of the game here.
I believe I have left a legacy as President as good as anyone else.