Belfast Telegraph

‘Don’t call Minister’s bluff at crunch IFA meeting’

By Steven Beacom

Irish League Championship clubs have asked Dunloy not to call the Sports Minister’s bluff over finance for the game and to withdraw their controversial proposals ahead of the Irish FA EGM next week.

The reason behind this latest twist to the ongoing saga is that the Championship sides — who would be termed as intermediate clubs — fear that football in Northern Ireland will lose millions of pounds if the proposals by Dunloy go through.

Sports Minister Nelson McCausland is ready to hand over £23 million to the IFA for the upgrading of Windsor Park, but only if he feels the association proves that it is a fit for purpose body following an independent review.

Raymond Kennedy must also be removed as President for the proposed cash to flow.

In a recent interview with the Belfast Telegraph, McCausland added that he wanted to provide finance, not just for Windsor, but for the improvement of facilities around the country.

Minister McCausland’s office has already expressed concern that one of Dunloy’s proposals would cut the number of independent members on the Executive Board from two to one.

The office stated that: “any perceived or actual diminution in the role of independent members would be regarded by government as a retrograde step in the absence of a full review of the current structures.”

There’s no doubt that this is a worrying time for all in football with seniors and juniors arguing for their cause.

Right now there is more lobbying going on than in the Houses of Parliament, with the Dunloy camp confident their proposals will be accepted at next Thursday’s EGM.

Officials from the Championship sides, which number 30, have been holding discussions and it would appear that most of them are against Dunloy’s ideas.

Those supporting Dunloy’s plans, however, believe they have Tobermore, Portstewart and Glebe Rangers on board.

A source said: “The Sports Minister Nelson McCausland has called for a review of the IFA. That review would be best served if everyone within the game got together over the next three months and sorted out the problems by debate and negotiation.

“If the proposals go through the much needed injection of Government money would again be put on hold or lost forever as the IFA would again struggle to convince the Minister of their capability. Dunloy FC should withdraw their proposal and encourage and take part in a review of the IFA as requested by the Minister.

“They should get round the table and use their obvious considerable knowledge of the Articles to negotiate with everyone at all levels of football and have their say on all the Articles of Association.

“If Dunloy FC cannot see their way clear to withdrawing their proposals before the EGM, all right thinking clubs should vote against the proposals to ensure their rejection.

“For too many years now there has been much trouble within our sport. Here’s an opportunity to improve and put things right.”

Recently Championship clubs have benefited from government money in the form of grants, to help improve grounds and facilities such as floodlights and changing rooms but there is now a growing fear that should Dunloy emerge successful from the EGM that public money will be a thing of the past.

The source continued: “Grant Aid is a major factor for clubs wishing to rise through the leagues. If the Dunloy proposals go ahead the public money in all likelihood would not become available. Some have said that Mr McCausland is bluffing. I for one would certainly not want to call his bluff.

“The B Division clubs of the old Irish League followed their counterparts from the old A Division Irish League to be governed by the IFA as the Premiership and the Championship.

“Clubs such as Ballyclare Comrades, Limavady United, Larne, Ards and Bangor who have all at one time or another competed in the top league have aspirations of returning some day to that level.

“ Ballyclare Comrades have recently been grant aided and spent in the region of £250,000 on their facility at Dixon Park.

“More needs to be done to bring the stadium up to Premiership standard.

“How are they to do this without government assistance?”

Expect a lot more questions over the coming week. And unless all the parties come together before next Thursday, the EGM should be pretty explosive.

Dunloy's main proposals

A new IFA Executive Board of eight headed and driven by an outside independent chairman

There would be no other independents on the Executive Board

Guaranteed places on the board for senior, intermediate, junior and women’s football

Office-bearers to be president and two vice-presidents, none of whom would sit on the board

Changes to the numbers at Council with senior, intermediate, junior and women’s football being guaranteed two places each with the possibility of more through divisional associations

The seniors would lose their automatic 12 although this point is currently under discussion with the Dunloy group

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