US parades Walsh while sport bodies get a grilling
A new contract for Ireland’s most successful sports coach, Billy Walsh, would have cost €1.6m, boxing chiefs claim.
Joe Christle, chair of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), said Walsh was already the highest-paid member of its staff and agreeing to the pay package would have been “irresponsible, if not reckless”.
Walsh was unveiled yesterday as the new head coach of women’s boxing in the United States, while officials in Ireland were being grilled over his shock departure.
The long-time head coach of the High Performance Unit at the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), Walsh resigned last week and will take up a new role in the US that will see him try to foil Katie Taylor’s tilt at a second Olympic gold medal.
The IABA and Sport Ireland stepped into the ring yesterday to face questions from the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications on the loss of Walsh.
The committee heard that boxing’s administrators feared a knock-on effect, with other coaches and boxers demanding more money.
This follows a week of claims and counter-claims between the two bodies over who was at fault for failing to get him to sign a new deal and remain in Ireland.
IABA chairman Mr Christle said Walsh’s resignation had come as a “bombshell” to the association.
“Any suggestion that any director wanted Billy to leave is totally and utterly rejected,” he said.
“The suggestion that he is the victim of a campaign to oust him from his job is untrue.”
The IABA chiefs denied that they wanted pay rises themselves if their hugely successful coaching chief got the lucrative deal.
“The directors are volunteers and receive no remuneration or expenses and so there is no question that these assessments were based on self-interest.”
Sport Ireland said it signed off on covering the cost of retaining Walsh’s services after contract negotiations had broken down over the last eight months. It put the salary figure at closer to €125,000 a year for three years.
“It was clear from the outset the non-financial matters were of paramount importance (to Mr Walsh),” John Treacy, Sport Ireland chief executive said.
The committee was told that Sport Ireland had stressed the importance of retaining Walsh to the IABA last February.
Senator Eamonn Coghlan, former chair of the High Performance Committee of the Irish Sports Council (ISC), said he does not believe the IABA wanted Walsh to continue in his role. He said the IABA and Sports Ireland had “no problems in the ring”, adding that it was clear there were problems “outside the ring”.
Meanwhile, USA Boxing yesterday called Walsh “the architect behind the most successful era in Irish boxing”.
Walsh himself said: “It was with great pride that I was part of building the successful Irish programme over the past several years and I hope to do the same with USA Boxing.”
Katie Taylor has expressed her shock at Walsh’s departure, saying: “To think he could be in the opposite corner in Rio...”