Chief insists Association will achieve great things despite controversies
Embattled Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson has launched a staunch defence of his leadership after Northern Ireland football’s governing body was mired in controversy during the pandemic.
Nelson, along with President Conrad Kirkwood and Elite Football Development Consultant Aaron Hughes, launched the Irish FA’s new five-year corporate strategy called ‘A Roadmap For Football’ on Thursday.
The document outlined an ambitious and progressive way forward for football in Northern Ireland. But questions remain over whether the Irish FA, under Nelson’s direction, is fit for purpose.
Since the pandemic hit these shores in March 2020, Nelson, who has largely remained in the public shadows, has:
*Been forced to defend himself to Stormont officials after a section of Irish League clubs sent in a letter of no confidence in his leadership
*Been left red-faced after the IFA appointed Diarmuid O’Carroll as their Under-17/19 international manager without realising he failed to meet the criteria
*Endured stinging criticism when Northern Ireland fans accused the Association of charging extortionate prices for tickets to last year’s home internationals.
This was on the back of current Northern Ireland Football League Chief Executive Gerard Lawlor controversially leaving his position on the all-powerful IFA Board, the Association failing to secure the naming rights at Windsor Park and the national stadium being overlooked for money-spinning concerts.
When quizzed on whether the Irish FA was like a boat without a rudder, Nelson hit back: “I’d refute that completely. I think we are an organisation that has been around for 141 years, and we have achieved great things in the past and we will go on to achieve great things and this strategy is a roadmap for that success.
“I’ve had this role for a while now and I’m very proud to have it. It’s a significant role in football in Northern Ireland and my job is to lead the staff to deliver the strategy. I do that every day to the best of my ability and will hopefully carry on doing that.”