Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

IFA rocked by double blow

The Irish Football Association has been left reeling from a one-two that could cost the local game millions of pounds.

The double whammy started when a Government review into the list of sporting events which are protected for free-to-air television effectively banned the IFA - as well as their counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales - from negotiating television deals with subscription channels.

And the second blow was struck when the association’s former chief executive Howard Wells - who was sacked in October 2008 - walked off with a six-figure sum in an out-of-court settlement of his unfair dismissal case.

The double blow means that football in Northern Ireland is now facing financial uncertainty. Added to that they are trying to seal a lucrative deal with boss Nigel Worthington

The IFA secured a £10 million deal with Sky Sports last year, to take in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign as well as the 2012 European Championship qualifiers.

Under new rules competitive international fixtures will only be allowed to be broadcast on terrestrial channels, meaning the deal cannot be renewed past 2012.

The domestic game has also benefited from Sky coverage, with five fixtures being screened live in each of the last three seasons. Where the Government reccomendations leave that agreement isn’t certain.

Wells’ case against the IFA was due to begin on Monday morning before the pay-off was agreed between legal representatives. Not only do the IFA have to pay out a sum to Wells, but legal costs will also have to be met, leaving the association with a bill that could run into £500,000.

IFA President Raymond Kennedy said under the conditions of the settlement he could not comment.