| 13°C Belfast

David Martin who left the Irish FA under cloud six years ago set to return as new president


David Martin is likely to be the only candidate nominated for the top role

David Martin is likely to be the only candidate nominated for the top role

Raymond Kennedy

Raymond Kennedy

Outgoing IFA chief Jim Shaw

Outgoing IFA chief Jim Shaw

David Martin is likely to be the only candidate nominated for the top role

Controversial local football figure David Martin is set to become the new president of the Irish Football Association.

Mr Martin's expected move into one of the most prominent posts in Northern Ireland sport will mark a dramatic comeback for a man removed from his position in the IFA in 2010 by then Sports Minister Nelson McCausland, who deemed the organisation not fit for purpose.

The deadline for nominations to succeed current president Jim Shaw passed at midnight with senior IFA sources anticipating Mr Martin would be the only person nominated for the role.

The same sources suggested even if someone went up against him, Mr Martin would be odds-on favourite to win.

Any potential president has to be proposed and seconded by two IFA Council members. The IFA AGM is scheduled to take place at Windsor Park on June 28 and the IFA Council must elect officers within 14 days.

Come July, Mr Martin's place at the head of the IFA table will be confirmed. It will complete a remarkable turnaround for the Co Antrim FA official.

In 2010 Mr Martin, then the IFA treasurer, and president Raymond Kennedy had to leave the association with Mr McCausland making it clear it would not be handed any of the £26m for the redevelopment of Windsor Park while the pair were in office.

They had been strongly criticised in an independent report into the departure of chief executive Howard Wells, who took an unfair dismissal case that cost the the IFA £500,000.

After leaving, Mr Martin made known his determination to return to the IFA, but failed three competency tests carried out by independent commissions, as requested by government when anyone wished to become an office bearer in the association.

At an IFA AGM in 2013 in Enniskillen, however, the criteria was changed when a motion was passed that it was not a requirement 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), Mr Martin was elected deputy president on the back of a unanimous vote at a meeting of the IFA Council.

Since then his aim has been to become IFA president and it appears as though his wish will come true later this year.

The latest developments will be monitored by the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs, though unofficial groups are talking about holding a protest at a Northern Ireland game at some stage in 2016.

At a World Cup qualifier against Russia at Windsor Park in August 2013, Northern Ireland fans protested with banners at the prospect of Mr Martin becoming IFA deputy president, claiming he was not suitable for such a prominent role in the governing body of Northern Ireland football, but despite their concern he was still elected.

At that time DCAL issued a statement declaring that the IFA's removal of the suitability test was a retrograde step which could breach the £26m funding agreement for Windsor Park.

A statement from DCAL read: "The election of officers within the IFA is a democratic process and purely a matter for the IFA.

"Nevertheless, government need to be assured that the past failings in governance/accountability within the IFA, resulting in significant financial payouts by the organisation, cannot be repeated.

"The IFA had made significant improvements to their governance arrangements following an independent review of governance in 2011.

"However, the recent changes to the Articles of Association to remove the requirement for those seeking election to senior positions to be approved by an independent commission is seen by the department as a retrograde step and potentially breaches existing funding agreements between the department and the IFA for development costs associated with the redevelopment of Windsor Park. This is currently being investigated."

As it turned out the public funding was not affected and the money was made available to modernise Windsor Park.

Mr Martin did not wish to comment, but when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph the IFA stated: "Nominations for the president and two deputy presidents of the IFA were to be received by midnight on Thursday, March 31. These will be taken forward to the 2016 AGM and following a council meeting scheduled to happen in late June/early July a new president and two deputy presidents will be voted for by the association's council members."

Current second deputy president Jack Grundie has again been nominated for the deputy president's role.

Belfast Telegraph