Monday 25 September 2017

Boxing impasse edges towards the High Court

As a result of yesterday’s vote, the IABA now has two rule books in existence. Stock photo
As a result of yesterday’s vote, the IABA now has two rule books in existence. Stock photo

Sean McGoldrick

The future of Ireland's most successful Olympic sport remains mired in a deepening split which looks increasingly likely to end up in an expensive High Court case.

Over 100 delegates from boxing clubs from all over the country yesterday defied a directive from Fergal Carruth, the chief executive of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), and attended an extraordinary general meeting in Parnells GAA Club in Dublin.

They overwhelmingly voted to adopt a rule book to govern the IABA which was prepared by a sub-committee of the Central Council of the IABA. On a show of hands, 103 delegates backed the move while two abstained.

Adopted

"We have taken the first step on the road back to democracy," declared IABA president Pat Ryan

As a result of yesterday's vote, the IABA now has two rule books in existence because at a Board meeting in June, the directors adopted a different rule book which they now insist takes precedence.

It remains to be seen what practical impact yesterday's decision will have on the ongoing power struggle in the organisation between the Board of Directors and the Central Council, which is made up of elected members from the IABA's affiliated clubs.

The Board of Directors, through the statement issued by Fergal Carruth on September 1, had described yesterday's EGM as "illegal".

The exceptional turn-out - the annual convention of the Association normally attracts about 50 delegates - lends huge moral support to the stance taken by the Central Council. But asked afterwards how the impasse could be resolved, one high-ranking official said: "Probably in the courts, though we hope not."

While the adoption of a new rule book has sparked this latest controversy, the key issue is that because of the make-up of the Board of Directors, the elected members of the Central Council believe they have lost control of the sport.

"It is mathematically impossible to win any vote at a Board of Directors meeting," said Bernie Harold, who sits on the board in her capacity of president of the Leinster Council of the IABA.

It was pointed out that 13 other national sports governing bodies were required to set up Boards of Directors by the Sports Council. But in all these cases a majority of the directors were directly involved in the sport.

The origins of the row can be traced back to the noughties when the board replaced the former trustees of the IABA. Prominent trade union official, the late Christy Kirwan, who had a long involvement in boxing, invited John Lynch, then chairman of CIE, to join the new board and he became chairman. Dominic O'Rourke, who was president of the IABA at the time, told delegates they were assured "boxing people will always run boxing."

Lynch was succeeded by the current chairman Joe Christle. Aside from personalities, the fact that the incumbent chairman can appoint four other members to the board - who are not required to be directly involved in boxing - infuriates the elected officers and members.

Disenfranchised

The IABA's Central Council are represented on the board by the president and the chairs of the four provincial councils. But in the event of a tied vote, the chairman of the Board of Directors has the casting vote.

The 'take-home' message from the meeting was that club members feel disenfranchised by the current system and, in the words of one delegate, they want the organisation to be run by "real boxing people who are passionate about the sport."

It has also emerged that a row between the Board of Directors and the Ulster Council of the IABA is set to erupt in the wake of a statement issued by Joe Christle which appeared on the Association's website.

It centres on the number of delegates who were eligible to vote at the Ulster Convention in August.

Traditionally, the deadline for club registration is May 31.

However, Christle has directed that any member whose affiliation forms were presented to Head Office on or before July 31 will be allowed to vote in elections.

This could result in moves to have the elections at the Ulster Convention re-run - a move which will be bitterly opposed by the Central Council of the IABA.

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