Belfast Telegraph

Windsor Park row is own-goal by IFA

When the plans for a national sports stadium at the Maze fell through there was an immediate bonus for the three big teams sports here – rugby, soccer and GAA.

Each of them were promised substantial funding to develop their flagship grounds. Since then rugby and GAA have gone full steam ahead with redevelopment plans at Ravenhill and Casement Park respectively. But the international football stadium at Windsor Park continues to crumble thanks to an unseemly row between the Irish Football Association and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

At the centre of the row is one man, David Martin, who was elected deputy president of the Association last week. This row goes back to 2010 when DCAL said it could not release the promised £25m of funding while Mr Martin and the then President of the IFA remained in office. Both men stepped down.

But Mr Martin, who since then has failed three competency tests ordered by the government for IFA office-bearers, got back into office after the tests were dropped by the soccer body.

Many fans will wonder why the IFA dropped these tests which had been a precondition of funding. DCAL had asked for the tests over concerns about the association's governance. Others may raise eyebrows at a Sinn Fein minister refusing a grant to a soccer body.

But the minister certainly has a right to question if the governance and accountability of any body she funds – sporting or otherwise – stands up to scrutiny. This is, after all, public money.

She has asked the IFA to get its house in order as quickly as possible. The IFA has promised to do so but there remains the problem of Mr Martin, if he is, indeed, the sticking point. He was democratically elected to the post and is entitled to occupy it. He has not done anything illegal. So, however the matter is sorted, it should be done so quickly so that a run-down stadium can be redeveloped to a standard in keeping with its international status.

Belfast Telegraph


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