Belfast Telegraph

Sports minister threatens to pull Windsor Park redevelopment funding

By Claire Cromie

Northern Ireland's Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin says she will not provide £26m funding for the redevelopment of Windsor Park until the Irish Football Association has "appropriate governance".

The IFA scrapped the requirement for suitability assessments for senior officials earlier this year.

And last week David Martin was controversially re-appointed to the Irish Football Association board.

"I need to be assured that appropriate governance and accountability structures have been maintained," said Ni Chuilin, speaking in the Assembly.

"Until that happens, I can't sign off on any agreement."

Martin has been elected as the first deputy president just three years after he left the post of treasurer.

He and the then-IFA president Raymond Kennedy departed in 2010 when former chief executive Howard Wells successfully pursued a £500,000 unfair dismissal case against the governing body.

The departures of Martin and Kennedy came after former sports minister Nelson McCausland deemed the IFA unfit for purpose and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure was thought to be uneasy about Martin's return to prominence.

DCAL funding accounts for a large amount of the £25million needed to redevelop Windsor Park.

A group of fans staged a protest against Martin's proposed reappointment ahead of last month's World Cup qualifier against Russia.

A statement from Caral Ni Chuilin on Tuesday - as Northern Ireland prepared to kick off against Luxembourg - said: “The election of officers within the IFA is a democratic process which involves all the members within the association.

"All organisations in receipt of funding from government are required to have appropriate governance and accountability structures.

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

"DCAL are working with the IFA to review the implications of the recent changes to the Articles of Association to be assured that appropriate governance and accountability structures have been maintained and fully meet the needs of DCAL.

"This will be a pre-condition to the signing of any funding agreement for the re-development of Windsor Park.

"We expect these matters can be resolved by the IFA expediently and to DCAL’s satisfaction, thereby ensuring the redevelopment of Windsor Park remains on schedule.”

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