Belfast Telegraph

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Come on IFA, give us some Christmas cheer

By Steven Beacom

The image of the Irish Football Association took another battering last week. Can you imagine any other organisation effectively turning down £4.2 million of government money to aid the plight of their people?

Well, that's exactly what IFA members did when they didn't vote in sufficient numbers for a new 10-man board to run football here at an eventful Extraordinary General Meeting.

It was extraordinary alright. Extraordinary because yet again too many IFA members thought about themselves and their own little positions of power rather than the good of the game as a whole.

On second thoughts, it wasn't that extraordinary at all.

Just the same old story as far as the IFA are concerned.

Expect another EGM in January, when once again IFA members will be asked to support the 10-man board - something which the government is expecting and demanding for them to release the millions which could be used to improve the appalling facilities at some Irish League grounds.

I would like to think the IFA would see sense in the new year - make it a resolution lads - but I wouldn't bet on it.

If you think that EGM should be the only thing concentrating IFA minds over the next few weeks, though, think again.

For starters those at Windsor Avenue have to deliver on a new Northern Ireland manager.

Nigel Worthington is going to be offered a new deal this week.

That's the right decision but there are fears that Worthington and the IFA will find it difficult to agree financial terms.

Piece of advice to the IFA - sort it out before Christmas, one way or another.

If Worthington's situation could become complicated, the future of chief executive Howard Wells reached that stage a long time ago. His contract with the association finishes at the end of the year.

Let's hope the results of the investigation going on into his business deals become public before then.

From what I've been told by several IFA officials most of them couldn't care less whether Wells stays or not. Not exactly all sweetness and light, is it?

But believe me, the IFA bigwigs had better be strong and stand together in dealing with FIFA when trying to sort out the controversial issue of who qualifies to play for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

There has already been a recommendation from FIFA which, if implemented, would see anyone born north or south being able to play for their choice of north or south.

If the IFA allow that to happen they are going to lose scores and scores of players to the Republic and, in turn, that will be detrimental to Northern Ireland in the future.

There is also the ongoing dispute with Linfield over Windsor Park and, of course, the controversial move to the proposed national stadium at the Maze.

Lots to sort out, isn't there?

This is a critical time in IFA history. For an association that has brought so much embarrassment to football in Northern Ireland over the years, let's hope that, for a change, they get things right.

No pressure, but in time for Christmas would be nice.

Belfast Telegraph


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