EXCLUSIVE: Extraordinary comments from former IFA CEO Howard Wells OBE

Former CEO of the Irish Football Association, Howard Wells OBE, has spoken exclusively to Unionist Voice about the poor financial management and challenges he faced when he arrived at the association.

By Jamie Bryson

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Unionist Voice has primarily focused on political matters, however we did promise to bring a wider focus onto sporting issues and other important community matters.

In relation to sport we are neutral and will provide a platform to all clubs, regardless of their background. Football is for all.

Tonight we can carry exclusive comments by the former CEO of the Irish FA, Mr Howard Wells OBE.

Mr Wells is politically neutral and his comments are from his perspective as a former CEO of the Irish Football Association.

The comments, based upon documented fact from his time in office, will raise huge questions for the current IFA President Mr David Martin and local football’s financial management.

Responding to Monday’s article- in which local clubs questioned the financial management of the NAFL under IFA President David Martin- Mr Wells has given an exclusive overview of issues he encountered within the IFA.

Mr Wells, who is commenting on factual matters from his time in office and is not in any way commenting on his dismissal in 2008 or any recent NAFL matters said:

“When I arrived in January 2005, the first thing I did was disband the Finance Committee which David Martin (current IFA President) Chaired.”

“At its most recent meeting prior to my arrival, in December 2004, it concluded that ‘the IFA’s finances seemed sound in the medium term’.

“Yet there were no budgets and no management accounts. There was nobody within the staff who had a financial qualification.”

“William Campbell was Head of Finance and all I found were drawers of unpaid bills and fines from Companies House. In month one, we had to borrow money from the Bank to pay the staff.

“I wrote to Nigel Carson at DCAL on 28 January 2005, informing him that I could not believe government had committed £8 million to an organisation which was clearly not fit for purpose.

“I brought in AHL Ltd to conduct a forensic audit. They uncovered 31 issues of poor financial management and a lack of controls.

“I brought in Morris Corrin, who was Finance Director of NIEC for 20 years, to sort out the mess. This took almost a year.

“In May 2005, on the morning of the Irish Cup Final, I told David Martin that his position as Treasurer was untenable.

“So why with these same individuals involved would anyone believe that the IFA’s financial management had not reverted to type?

“DCAL knew this, so why has more money been invested into the IFA?”

Research carried out by Unionist Voice shows however that in 2010 DCAL Minister Nelson McCausland stated that he would not work with the IFA so long as Raymond Kennedy and David Martin were involved.

Speaking at the time Mr McCausland said;

“Significant payouts to former employees have diverted resources from those who play and support football at all levels and as a result has eroded public confidence in the IFA,”

“An extremely damaging independent review into the circumstances surrounding the sacking of the previous IFA chief executive found that the two most senior officers of the Association acted in the knowledge of the financial risk of their actions for the Association.

“I would have great difficulty in placing further public funds in the hands of an organisation where these individuals remained in a senior position.

Despite this Mr Martin, despite failing a suitability test, returned as President of the IFA in 2016.

Mr Wells’ factual comments will heap further pressure on David Martin and those around him within the Irish FA.

With a number of Amateur clubs moving towards demanding an investigation into the finances of the NAFL- of which Mr Martin is treasurer- it appears that the IFA President’s position may be soon untenable.

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