Belfast Telegraph

Timebomb was left ticking under IFA chief Kennedy

By Stuart McKinley

IRISH FA Council member Bobby Jameson last night revealed that plans to unseat Raymond Kennedy as president were put on hold just last month, because his position was about to become untenable.

And Jameson, who represents Portadown on the IFA Premiership committee, also took a swipe at Kennedy’s ability to sustain the FIFA and UEFA positions that he intends to hold onto in the wake of his decision to resign

Kennedy and his vice president David Martin have been under fire since Howard Wells was awarded a substantial six-figure pay-off in a wrongful dismissal case last November, with a total bill for the IFA of £516,000.

Both men are now on the way out of their respective offices, but the final damning verdict was delivered, not by anyone within the Irish FA, but by a Sport NI investigation into the sacking of Wells, which came out last week.

And with that revealing of the report imminent, the men who wanted rid of Kennedy held fire until he had nowhere left to turn.

"Two council members were going to run for the president and vice presidents positions at the AGM, but we became aware that the Sport NI report was so damning that there would be nowhere for him to hide once that came out," said Jameson.

"Rather than be seen to be ousting Raymond Kennedy and possibly splitting the council by putting it to a vote, we allowed him to fall on his own sword instead of buying into the idea that it was a campaign driven by the media that was trying to get him out. Now we can move on with the council united."

Government funding, to the tune of £30million, for a major redevelopment of Windsor Park was under threat if Kennedy and Martin had resisted calls for them to go. And with that amounting to the future of Northern Ireland football being placed at serious risk, the pair were finally forced out of the association.

"There is no way that we can afford to put the £30million for the upgrading of Windsor Park in jeopardy," said Jameson.

"The IFA doesn’t have that sort of money. We don’t even have the £500,000 that it cost to dismiss Howard Wells, although that £30million is peanuts in comparison to what would have been in the pot if the Maze stadium had gone ahead.

"Internal wranglings and politics put paid to that.

"The departures of Howard Wells and David Bowen before him have cost the IFA over £1million and that is money that we can ill afford. We are a small association and it takes time and a lot of hard work to generate that kind of income.

"You don’t hear of angst within the GAA or rugby, yet football has lurched from one crisis to another for years now. Hopefully we can move on and build a bright and solid future for football in Northern Ireland."

Kennedy was in South Africa recently for the World Cup, working as a member of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee. He will continue to hold that post, but Jameson (pictured) believes that too will be in doubt.

"People will wonder at him continuing to occupy positions on FIFA and UEFA committees, but once it becomes clear within those bodies the mistakes that have been made and that fact that he cost his own association £500,000 it won’t do a lot for his pedigree," he said.

"I couldn’t believe it over the last couple of days when Raymond said that he was shocked at the amount it cost to get rid of Howard Wells.

"Now we need a fresh face and a man who is up to the job. In my opinion Raymond wasn’t able to do the job, despite his love for football.

"Being steeped in football doesn’t matter if you aren’t able to do a job."

"It is six months since the first council meeting after the Howard Wells case was settled.

"At that meeting I asked that the president and vice president stand down if, as we believed, they acted against legal advice.

"I spoke to him face-to-face and asked him that if he was to do it again would be do things differently — giving him a bit of a get-out — but he said he would do things exactly the same way."

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