Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

IFA Chief Nelson’s pitch for local game

New IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson has vowed to keep domestic football at the top of his priorities list.

Previously, clubs had accused the governing body of focusing on the International side at the cost of the Irish League.

However Nelson, attending his first official engagement at the launch of the Carling Premiership season yesterday, has insisted that will not be his style.

He maintains that it will share equal billing with the rest of the work that the former Macclesfield man will now oversee.

“For me, I try to see three things at all times,” Nelson said.

“The domestic game, the community and grassroots work and thirdly the international side.

“So the domestic game is right up there on our priority list. The launch on Tuesday looked very professional to me.

“To have have a brand like Carling involved, who has a great brand heritage and hopefully this will drive us forward as a domestic premier league.

“Our job is to keep focus is on all three.

“When the international side does well, the spotlight from that is shining brighter on the local game and the community work we’re doing.

“And that gives us the opportunity to tell the whole story of the work that is going on.”

With last year’s top flight kick-off interrupted by a referee’s strike and various registration fiascoes over the last number of seasons many will hope for an embarrassment free season this year.

Nelson insists everyone starts with a clean slate and is preferring to look on the positives.

“You can only start from where you are at this point,” he added.

“That’s all history to me. We look like we’re starting in good shape this year and the sponsors are good.

“Having the Royal Mail Fair Play League is a great deal.

“Not only is it new money for the clubs, but it’s a new partner who is looking at Northern Irish football who think they can achieve some of their aims through us.

“We’re in a time of recession, yet we’ve pulled in Carling and Royal Mail so that looks pretty good to me.”

It has been a hectic first few days for Nelson, but he is looking forward to taking in his first local fixture when the Premiership kicks off at the weekend.

“I’m at Crusaders versus Portadown on Saturday and then I’m looking forward to the, as you would put it, ‘Big Two’ game in the next couple of weeks.

“I’m then going to see Newry City and then Dungannon Swifts, so I have four games booked in for the first month.

“I look forward to seeing all the teams in the very near future.

“It really is hit the ground running time for me at the moment and it’s very exciting.

“It’s a day and half stuff for me right now and hopefully we can all take Northern Irish football forward together.”