Belfast Telegraph

Fans rally against return of ousted IFA supremo

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland supporters have held a protest at the prospect of David Martin returning to high office at the Irish Football Association.

Ahead of last night's World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and Russia at Windsor Park, scores of fans met up in Belfast to register their anger and frustration that one time treasurer Martin is set for a remarkable comeback to Windsor Avenue as Deputy President. Banners were also on show at the match.

Organisers of the protest say the campaign will intensify in the coming weeks claiming that Martin is not suitable for such a prominent role in the governing body of Northern Ireland football.

Back in 2010, treasurer Martin and the then President Raymond Kennedy had to leave the IFA with the Sports Minister at the time, Nelson McCausland making it clear that the association would not get any money for the re-development of Windsor Park while the pair were in office.

They had been strongly criticised in an independent report into the unfair dismissal of Chief Executive Howard Wells in 2008, costing the IFA a whopping £500,000.

With Kennedy and Martin in situ, the IFA was effectively deemed NOT fit for purpose. They both left under a cloud, but it had a silver lining for football here with the government, in conjunction with Sport NI, agreeing to hand over £25m to upgrade Windsor Park and another £36m to improve other stadia around the country.

Since departing three years ago, Martin has been determined to return to the IFA, but has failed several competency tests carried out by independent commissions as requested by government when anyone wished to become an office bearer in the association.

At the IFA AGM this year in Enniskillen, however, the criteria was changed when a motion was passed that you did not have to complete a competency test to become an office bearer.

And now with agreements supposedly in place, Martin is poised to be elected as Deputy President at an IFA Council meeting on September 2. Current President Jim Shaw only has two more years of his term to run meaning that in 2015 Martin, a major mover and shaken within the County Antrim FA, would be in line to become IFA President!

It's a scenario, underlined by the protest last night, that some Northern Ireland fans cannot stomach. A spokesperson for the group calling themselves Concerned Northern Ireland Supporters said: "David Martin has been in senior positions before at the IFA and his actions have cost the association. He has also failed previous tests by independent assessors to return to the IFA.

"We believe him returning to such a high-powered role in the IFA is a backward step for Northern Ireland football and will do the image of our game no good whatsoever."

The group have already been in touch with former Sports Minister McCausland and are planning to contact present Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin to discuss the issue and to ascertain what will happen to the money set aside for building work at Windsor, should Martin return to the IFA.

When contacted yesterday, Martin (pictured) said he was unaware of any protest and did not wish to say anything publicly at present.

Those organising the protest last night are expected to contact the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters Club this week in the hope that they will get some serious backing from around the country with the intention of holding an even bigger protest when the IFA host their Council meeting in Belfast next month.

Belfast Telegraph

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