Patrick Nelson’s respect for IFA president in waiting David Martin
Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson has spoken about his 'respect' for controversial figure David Martin, potentially the next President of the Association.
Martin is currently the vice-president of the IFA and favourite to succeed Jim Shaw next year as president.
Back in 2010, treasurer Martin and the then president, Raymond Kennedy, had to leave the IFA with the Sports Minister at the time, Nelson McCausland, making it clear the association would not get any of £25 million for the re-development of Windsor Park while the pair were in office.
They had been strongly criticised in an independent report into the unfair dismissal of chief executive Howard Wells, who took an unfair dismissal case costing the IFA a whopping £500,000.
After departing, Martin made known his determination to return to the IFA, but failed several competency tests carried out by independent commissions, as requested by government when anyone wished to become an office bearer in the association.
At the IFA AGM in 2013 in Enniskillen, however, the criteria was changed when a motion was passed that you did not have to complete a competency test to become an office bearer.
Later that year, despite anger from Northern Ireland fans and concern from the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure (DCAL), Martin was elected vice president.
Such was the fury among fans that they organised a protest and held up banners at a Northern Ireland match. Two years on, it is still an issue that rankles with many supporters.
At last week's IFA AGM it emerged that Fermanagh & Western FA secretary Neil Jardine may challenge Martin in 2016 while ex-IFA board members Maurice Johnston and Conrad Kirkwood, as well as Linfield board member Jack Grundie, are weighing up a move to run for president.
When asked by the Belfast Telegraph, if he supported the candidacy of Martin for the IFA presidency next year, Nelson said: "I support the candidacy of whoever comes forward. We're a democratic organisation. David is a highly respected member of our organisation, our first deputy president. I respect him, I respect all the other council members that we work with."
It is understood that should Martin become president, he would prefer that Shaw continue in the role for the duration of the 2016 European Championship finals if Northern Ireland qualify, even though the election is due to take place before the tournament begins.
Shaw has said he would be content to continue in the role until that time.