There is fresh hope today that Northern Ireland football will benefit from a bumper £23million cash injection from Government after proposals to shake up the Irish FA structures were withdrawn last night.
Junior club Dunloy, after seeking legal advice, were forced to pull the plug on the controversial proposals because of a procedural error in one of the articles.
Among the changes proposed by the Ballymena and Provincial Intermediate League side were to slash the IFA’s Executive Board to eight with just one independent member.
Representatives of senior clubs made it very clear at last night’s EGM at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast that they didn’t want the changes to be implemented
And before the meeting had kicked off, Sports Minister Nelson McCausland, a vociferous critic of the IFA of late, underlined his desire to see two independent voices on a 12-strong executive.
The withdrawal of article five after an agreement with senior clubs had a knock-on effect on other articles so they had to be taken off the table.
Dunloy admitted they had not realised this would happen, but it was a costly mistake as it meant the other major proposals had to fall before they could reach the voting stage.
Football fans will now hope that vital funds can be secured for the desperately needed redevelopment of Windsor Park and other stadia around the country.
The Irish FA issued a statement last night which read: “The Irish FA Council held an Extraordinary General Meeting tonight to discuss the alterations to Articles of Association proposed by Dunloy FC as Special Resolutions.
“Following the withdrawal of a proposed alteration to Article 5, subsequent proposals to alter Articles 6, 8, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 27 and 35 fell as a consequence.
“The structure of the Irish FA Council and Executive Board therefore remain unchanged.”
Glentoran chairman Aubry Ralph said it was about time the Irish FA started acting like a united family on a more regular basis.
“On behalf of the Premier League folks I would like to thank the people for the withdrawal of article five,” he said.
“Lessons can be learned in the sense that we need to consult more closely with one another and be much more inclusive.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of that there is no doubt.
“We as a group are very thankful that the proposal was withdrawn and we would like to open dialogue with anyone who wants to speak to us.
“We want to be part of the family and though we are the seniors we don’t run the family. I would ask everybody to take that on board and think about where we are going from here.”
Billy McIlroy, who pushed the Dunloy proposals, said: “We will have to adopt the English FA system where we separate the rules from the articles.
“Your articles will only be changed once in a blue moon and your rules will be changed by an executive board.
“We would not be sitting here if we had done that about six years ago. We should be aiming to discuss articles once in a blue moon.
“The £23million bid is in for the money from DCAL and we may find out in January if we can get money from the Department of Finance. These articles we were proposing never put that in jeopardy.”
Armagh City representative Aidan Murphy said the Dunloy proposals highlighted that people were talking.
“We should not leave this meeting and simply turn up at the next
EGM like has happened for the last seven years,” he said.
“We are fed up with going to EGMs. Anyone who is interested in the IFA and its articles should come together and thrash out what people from all sections of the game want.
“We need to work together, tie things up independently and come to agreements. We need to have rules in place.
“This association has had a lot of change, numbers changing does not solve our problems.
“We have to get a plan in place for the next ten years that means we don’t have to confront these problems again. Let’s sort this out once and for all.”
Newry City chairman Paul McKenna quizzed Raymond Kennedy, who chaired the meeting, as to whether he would be resigning as Irish FA president as has been pushed for recently.
Kennedy said: “You will get no answer from me. That is for another meeting.”
McKenna replied: “I'm disappointed you could not answer that question with all these members here tonight.”
Kennedy's future will become clear at the next stormy IFA meeting on October 18.