The 142nd annual general meeting of the Irish Football Association was held in Armagh.
The Armagh City Hotel was the venue for the event, which was attended by delegates from member clubs of the association across Northern Ireland along with members of the Irish FA Board and Senior Leadership Team. Irish FA President Conrad Kirkwood conducted proceedings.
Looking back on 2022, Irish FA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson revealed the association had had to deal with increasing cost pressures.
He said while the senior men’s team’s results had been disappointing during the year, he was heartened by the progress made by the senior women’s team and especially their appearance at their first major tournament, UEFA Women’s Euro 2022.
The Chief Executive welcomed the return of Michael O’Neill as manager of the Northern Ireland senior men’s team. He said it was a tough but necessary decision to replace Ian Baraclough towards the end of 2022.
He further revealed progress had been slow around the creation of a National Training Centre, however he noted work on the project is continuing with both public sector and private sector partners.
He praised the strong UK and Ireland bid to host Euro 2028, adding that the association and Northern Ireland were ready to play their part should the five-nation bid be successful.
The Chief Executive expressed disappointment that the long promised sub-regional funding for football had still not been released by government, but added he was hopeful funding would soon flow. He said it had been shown time and time again that investment in sport brought societal benefits.
During his address he also welcomed the launch of the association’s new Sustainability Strategy.
Irish FA Finance Director Niall McClean revealed the association made a loss of £536,000 during 2022. He said rising energy, utility and travel bills had impacted the bottom line.
He noted, however, that revenue had increased during the year. There was more commercial income, including monies from a new six-year broadcast agreement negotiated by UEFA.
The Finance Director insisted the balance sheet was robust and said the ambition was to return to break even by the end of this year.
Delegates voted on various proposed changes to football regulations.
An Irish FA proposal for a new regulation that players must be aged 16 by the end of the current playing season (31 May for the men’s game and 31 October for the women’s game) before they can be deemed suitable by their club and eligible to play adult football was passed by 135 votes to eight.
A Northern Ireland Football League proposal that Football Regulation 38b (Matches) should not have to apply to matches under the auspices of NIFL was rejected by 104 votes to 27.
The regulation states that no match shall be played within Northern Ireland on a Sunday unless the two participating clubs and competition organisers agree to do so.
Proposals for member clubs to fully adopt and implement the Irish FA’s Safeguarding Policy and Procedures and a change to anti-doping rules to ensure the association is compliant with UKAD were unanimously passed.
Also passed was a change to Football Regulation 21c (Referees’ Committee) which would enable an independent person with appropriate skills but who is not an ex-referee to chair the committee without being a voting member.
Gianni Manga (FIFA) and Jozef Kliment (UEFA) were special guests at the AGM and both told the audience that the Irish FA had made valuable contributions to football on both the global and European stage.
At the meeting members approved the association’s annual report and financial statements, the Irish FA Foundation’s annual report and financial statements, the Irish FA Stadium Development Company’s annual report plus the Irish FA’s annual Activity Report, which summarises the football activities and operations of the three Irish FA entities during the 2022-23 season.
The AGM was followed by a meeting of the Irish FA Council at which Conrad Kirkwood was re-elected as Irish FA President and Neil Jardine and Colin McKendry as First Deputy President and Second Deputy President respectively.