Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Kennedy’s resignation opens the door

In the end it came quicker than expected, but for many Raymond Kennedy’s resignation as President of the Irish Football Association didn’t come quickly enough.

Kennedy blew the final whistle on his three-and-a-half year reign yesterday afternoon. Arguably the most critical period in the 130 year history of the IFA has only just kicked off.

At Monday night’s Council meeting Kennedy had the support of 14 members when a proposed vote of no confidence was taken. The problem was that more than twice as many voted against him and the pressure he was already under was cranked up.

After asking for 36 hours to consider his position, it took just 18 for Kennedy to announce that he would step down.

In a statement released by the IFA he said: “I fully understand the concerns of all regarding future funding and as I have always maintained in the past I will never put this in jeopardy.”

That funding has been at the crux of attempts to have Kennedy removed in recent months — although that’s not how it started.

He has been under fire since a hostile IFA Council meeting just a few days before last Christmas — the first meeting after former chief executive Howard Wells won a ‘substantial six-figure sum’ in an unfair dismissal case.

The case cost the IFA a total of £536,000.

Kennedy has been made the fall guy for Wells’ departure, despite many members of committees, club representatives and others — including fans — wanting rid of the former chief executive.

The decision was also backed by a majority vote at the next Executive Board meeting. It was only when the huge cost of showing Wells the door became known that the knives came out for Kennedy. For 10 months though he refused to fall on his own sword.

Government finance to the tune of £23 million in order to bring Windsor Park up to standard with 21st century international football is vital to the IFA.

And in the end Mr Kennedy wasn’t prepared to be labelled as the man responsible for costing Northern Ireland football a stadium which has been badly needed for years.

The rebuilding of Windsor Park will take a while. It’s rebuilding the faith and trust in the IFA that is now most important.

“There is no quick fix,” said the man who led the vote of no confidence in Kennedy, Portadown director Bobby Jameson.

“It will take a while to build confidence again, especially in the midst of a recession when people aren’t forthcoming with sponsorship and it might take two or three years.

“It will be hard to re-build confidence from sponsors, from multi-national companies who we would like to have as sponsors and the public as well.”

A strong leader to guide the ship through stormy waters is also a must and whoever that leader may be — with Amateur League chairman Jim Shaw the leading contender — will have to unify the association and also ensure that where he leads the rest will follow.

“I would ask that everyone now gets unanimously behind one man — and that there are no other nominations for the position of President,” said Jameson.

“There is an opportunity now for a new dawn with a partnership of Jim Shaw as President and Terry Pateman as vice-President. They are competent men who can rebuild the association.”

Pateman was elected as vice-President on Monday night, filling the role that was vacated by David Martin a couple of months ago and as of now, with no President in place, Pateman is in charge of football in Northern Ireland.

“Jim Shaw will have the full 12 votes from the Premiership and I believe he has the ability to unite the council and the IFA as well as football in general,” added Jameson.

“I will support him because I feel he will make a better president than me.

“It is not a poisoned chalice to someone like Jim Shaw and Terry Pateman. They will see it as a challenge and it is a challenge I believe they are up to.”

The good news is that Shaw is not only happy to stand for the Presidency, he also has confidence in his ability to do the job.

“I always said that I wouldn’t stand against Raymond Kennedy,” said Shaw. “If people want me I am prepared to stand, but it is not a given. I have to be proposed and seconded first of all.

“I wouldn’t be prepared to stand if I didn’t think I could make a contribution.”

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