Former Irish FA President Jim Boyce has spoken about his sadness at the shambolic events that have embarrassed Northern Ireland football in recent times.
Ahead of a scheduled IFA Council meeting tonight, Boyce has called for a new spirit of togetherness after months in which the game here has threatened to tear itself apart.
In August, current IFA President Raymond Kennedy, vice-President David Martin, treasurer Neil Jardine and potential future President Jim Shaw all resigned from the IFA’s Executive Board.
This came after the Board was lambasted by Council members, who were fuming with how the unfair dismissal case of ex-Chief Executive Howard Wells was handled, costing the IFA around £500,000.
Kennedy then withdrew his resignation, but has indicated he will step down as President this month.
It is possible that could happen tonight, though another theory is that this evening’s meeting will simply determine the procedures to replace IFA office bearers.
Sports Minister Nelson McCausland has stated that he won’t release government funds for the redevelopment of Windsor Park until Kennedy has gone and the IFA shows itself to be an organisation who can handle public money.
It is all a sad state of affairs for the fans and for Boyce, who was replaced by Kennedy three years ago.
“I’ve been very saddened by everything that has gone on at the Irish FA and the amount of bad publicity that it has generated,” said Boyce,
“It would appear that certain individuals are more concerned with themselves than the association. It also appears that there is a major conflict between junior, intermediate and senior football.
“One thing that really has to stop in order to move on is the apparent petty jealousies and all the jockeying for positions which has caused so much friction within IFA ranks.”
Continuing on the theme of what needs to be done, Boyce added: “The IFA are looking for new office bearers and it is very important that the Council of the Association choose wisely and ensure that when the new office bearers are appointed they are people capable of sorting out issues within the association at the highest level.
“It is also very important that the next President ensures that the association is projected in the correct manner.”
Charismatic Boyce, hugely popular with the public, was left stunned and hurt in 2007 when he had to step down after the IFA Council vote between him and Kennedy was split.
Since then there has been an uneasy relationship between the pair. In a recent interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Kennedy declared that unlike his predecessor he was a ‘stay at home President’ who focused on domestic as well as international matters.
Boyce said: “I was saddened by some of Raymond’s comments but I prefer to keep my dignity and hopefully next year if my health allows when I become Vice-President of FIFA I will continue to promote the image of Northern Ireland football home and abroad.
“As for what happened when Raymond became President, there’s an old saying in life that you can forgive, but never forget.
“Had I been informed before the election, especially from within my own association who put my name forward, that people felt there should be a change I would have made it easy for them given the lobbying going on behind my back.
“I was surprised at what happened because at that time the association had never been in a stronger position from a financial or playing point of view. We had brought in in excess of £15 million through new sponsorship and TV revenue and the Northern Ireland team was going very well.”
With all the problems going on, it has been suggested that the best option for the IFA would be to have Boyce return as President, but he says that won’t happen.
“I would not go back as President, though if the new President asks for my assistance in anything I would only be too glad to help,” says Boyce, who is honourary Life President of the IFA and President of his beloved Cliftonville.
“Being President of the Association can be virtually impossible to please everyone. I think there is a misconception among some people that it is a paid position. It is not, though it is a great honour.
“I was proud to be the President for 12 years and what pleases me wherever I go is that I’m treated with great respect.”