Belfast Telegraph

'We must restore the IFA's credibility'

By Steven Beacom

The last Irish FA Council meeting effectively ended the troubled reign of Raymond Kennedy as President.

Tonight the members will move a step closer to electing his successor.

If it does not turn out to be Jim Shaw that will be a bigger surprise than a tear-free zone on The X Factor.

Shaw has something Kennedy didn’t — support throughout all levels of the game, so he should be able to hit the ground running when he takes up the post.

That is likely to be before Christmas.

Tonight the IFA Council will determine the procedure to follow for the election of the new President and the timescale.

After all the problems of late connected with the IFA, the association really could do with a straightforward process allowing Shaw to get down to work.

There is much to be done.

Putting forward the proviso that he must be proposed and seconded to have a chance of becoming President, the 65-year-old warms to his task when asked what he would do to get the IFA back on track.

His answer is one that will be welcomed by the football family.

“The first thing to do would be to recover our loss of image which has taken a battering over the past couple of years,” says Shaw.

“We need to get back to a position where the credibility of the Irish FA is restored inside and outside the game.”

Shaw refused to talk about Kennedy’s stormy period in the top position which gave way to an unsavoury split in Northern Ireland football.

But he did say: “We need to have unity in football and I believe that I would have the ability to achieve that.”

I suspect selling himself does not come easily to Shaw, but he is shrewd enough to know that he has to show those within the IFA and beyond that he can lead the sport here through a difficult time.

He added: “I would like to think my experience in the game would be of benefit.

“I’ve been involved for over 30 years at various levels, be it in the County Antrim FA, Amateur League and IFA and I’ve always strived to do my best for football in Northern Ireland and that would continue if I became President.”

After being a long serving employee of Nortel, where he rose to become Purchasing Director, Shaw retired earlier this year from his last job as a business adviser for Invest NI.

He will know then the importance of finance — infamously £500,000 was lost by the IFA in the unfair dismissal case of former Chief Executive Howard Wells.

He is also well aware of the government funding on the table for the much needed refurbishment of Windsor Park.

With Kennedy gone, the next stage for the IFA is to have an independent review of the association, in order for Sports Minister Nelson McCausland to release £23 million of funds,

Shaw says he is happy to work with government for the betterment of the game, stating: “I hope the money is there because we need it. We have to prove that we are a fit for purpose body to the government and I’m sure that can be done.

“We are still in the early phase of the review and aim to have it completed as quickly as possible.

“Obviously the IFA has had a difficult period and we are now determined to come through that.

“But I would like to point out that a lot of good things are happening at the IFA which are often forgotten about.

“For instance I believe the IFA deserve credit for what we are doing at grassroots levels in football and our fans have won awards from UEFA and FIFA through all our good Community Relations work.

“It’s not all bad.”

It’s a fair point, though it did seem that way at times under Kennedy, who came in for savage criticism.

Could Shaw handle that if things went wrong during his reign?

“It seems within organisations like the IFA whatever problems there are, they all come back to the President, but it’s one of those things that goes with the job,” he says.

“I know the responsibility the position holds. If I didn’t think I could handle it, I wouldn’t go for it.”

Shaw is not as charismatic as Kennedy’s predecessor Jim Boyce, but he may be the steady hand the IFA needs right now.

He concludes: “The IFA has tended to dwell a bit too much in history. You should learn from history, but not stay in the past. I’m more interested in the future and getting that right for football in Northern Ireland.”

Time will tell if he does.

Belfast Telegraph

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