IFA chief David Martin fails in quest to land vice-president role at FIFA
Irish FA president David Martin had to concede yesterday in his mission to become a Fifa vice-president.
Martin was hoping to cause an upset at the Uefa Congress in Rome but in the end he was comfortably beaten in the vote.
Football Association chairman Greg Clarke was elected to serve a four-year term as a Fifa vice-president, beating Martin 37-18 in the polling.
With one of the eight vice-president berths on the Fifa Council reserved for a British representative, Clarke made no secret of his desire to replace David Gill when the former Manchester United chief executive announced his decision to step down last year.
But any hopes of a straightforward coronation in the Italian capital were dashed in November when Dromore man Martin surprisingly threw his hat into the ring, with some sources suggesting the 65-year-old had a good chance of springing a surprise.
As it happened, though, Clarke cruised to victory in the ballot of European football's 55 member associations and will now take up a role that comes with a £190,000 salary and generous travel expenses. Martin could bank on the support of FAI chief executive John Delaney but he couldn't muster enough backing to follow in the footsteps of countrymen Harry Cavan and Jim Boyce and become Fifa vice-president.
Martin became Irish FA president in 2016 and since then the governing body has earned respect for the reopening of Windsor Park, a successful staging of the Women's European Under-17 finals in addition to submitting an all-Irish bid, along with the Football Association of Ireland, to host the 2023 European Under-21 finals.
Back in 2010 he was forced to step down from his then position of IFA treasurer.
Martin and then IFA president Raymond Kennedy both left their roles that year after then Northern Ireland Sports Minister Nelson McCausland stated that the governing body was "not fit for purpose".
This followed an independent report into the exit of previous IFA chief executive Howard Wells which criticised the roles of the duo in a saga which culminated in an unfair dismissal case that cost the governing body over £500,000. Martin made three unsuccessful attempts to regain a place in the IFA after failing independent competency tests that had been put in place for future holders of high office in.
However, these competency tests were removed from IFA rules at the football governing body's 2013 annual general meeting which led to Martin's election as the association's vice-president.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, 51-year-old Englishman Clarke explained his election will allow "English football to be represented on the highest stage" and said he was looking forward to joining the global debate on "how we grow football".
He admitted, though, he has a lot to learn about the role but said: "It will be fun, I love football and it's a good chance to learn more and hopefully make use of the knowledge I've acquired."
Asked if he would accept the Fifa salary and travel expenses, the former Cable and Wireless and Lend Lease chief executive said: "Yes, absolutely. Do I look shy about it?
"If I compare what I get paid for two days a week at the FA, pro rata, compared to what I used to earn, I'll still be earning a lot less.
"But I didn't do it for the money and today was the first time I heard that number. It will go through pay as you earn and I'll give half of it to the government, which is appropriate."
Clarke's first Fifa Council meeting will be in Miami next month and the debate is likely to be dominated by Fifa president Gianni Infantino's plans to revamp the Club World Cup, create a global Nations League and bring forward the expansion of the World Cup from 2026 to 2022.
There is strong opposition to those ideas, though, particularly in Europe.
Clarke said: "I expect a sensible compromise to emerge at some point.
"Everyone is staking out their positions at the moment but everyone wants to see football well run, via consensus, and I expect we'll get there.