Belfast Telegraph

Sports Minister hits out as IFA boss Kennedy leaves

By Stuart McKinley

Raymond Kennedy is on his way out as president of the Irish FA, yet the man whose reign at the top of Northern Ireland football has been uncomfortable from day one, will continue to dine at world football’s top table. RAYMOND Kennedy is on his way out as president of the Irish FA, yet the man whose reign at the top of Northern Ireland football has been uncomfortable from day one, will continue to dine at world football’s top table.

There have been few comfortable moments for Kennedy since he ousted Jim Boyce in June 2007 and his costly decision to preside over the controversial sacking of former chief executive Howard Wells in October 2008 ultimately led to his own departure.

He won’t go yet, but will tender his resignation to the IFA Council in September.

Kennedy won’t go away, though, and will remain on the ‘A’ list when it comes to enjoying the best seats in the house at the top games.

Although Kennedy is now a powerless president, ahead of his official departure in two months time, the deal to usher him out means he will retain positions within world and European governing bodies FIFA and UEFA for another 12 months.

That will give him another year to enjoy perks and fringe benefits of being among those with seats of power in global football.

After a weekend of desperately trying to cling onto his position, before ultimately bowing to the inevitable, Kennedy has decided not to return to South Africa for Sunday’s World Cup final, but there will be other trips over the next year thanks to his IFA role. And there is no economising when it comes to FIFA work with chauffeur-driven cars awaiting at whatever airport Kennedy arrives at transporting him to his room in a top hotel.

The finest food is always laid on and best bubbly for those who want it.

No champagne corks were popping at the IFA’s Windsor Avenue this week when the end of his tenure became obvious — although many will have been happy about it.

After the FIFA work has been carried out, it’s business class seats all the way home again.

FIFA congress delegates — of which Kennedy was one just a month ago — are paid a US$500 allowance, without any need for receipts, with various gifts often coming their way, too, along the lines of expensive watches, pearl cufflinks, leather belts and wallets.

One former FIFA and UEFA committee member was quoted as saying: “You don’t hang in there for no reason.”

It’s a gravy train that once handed the free ticket, nobody wants to disembark. FIFA is minted.

Northern Ireland, in sharp contrast, is far from being among the rich list of world football and the £516,000 it cost the Irish FA to pay off former chief executive Howard Wells and meet both his and the association’s legal fees, can’t be regarded as money well spent.

At a time of austerity in local football, the lavish sums spent on feeding, clothing and treating FIFA committee members won’t go down well either.

Sports Minister Nelson McCausland has heavily criticised the amount of money lost to local football through the sacking of Wells and the subsequent case for wrongful dismissal.

“If you get your governance right and your decision-making right and people understand what the priorities are, then all of these other things fall into place,” said Mr McCausland.

“It's getting the decision-making processes right, that's were the problems have been in the past because some of the decisions that have been made are quite clearly disgraceful.

“You can't justify squandering half a million pounds.”

Kennedy and current chief executive Patrick Nelson are understood to have clashed more than once in recent days, but only one has a future in the Windsor Avenue corridors of power.

A consultancy position on the board that will run the revamped Windsor Park has also been mooted for Kennedy, but that is likely to be little more than a window dressing exercise.

Government bean counters, who will be expected by the IFA to stump up £30million of public money in funding, are unlikely to countenance anyone associated with the Wells fiasco anywhere near it.

In its delayed statement yesterday to announce the exits of Kennedy and Martin, the Irish FA said they will conduct an urgent review into its structure, admitting there were weaknesses at Windsor Avenue.

The final paragrah of the statement read: “The Association is aware that recent events have indicated weaknesses in its structure and governance, and confirms its commitment to address these matters in the near future.”

Football fans here will watch with interest.

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