Sport Ireland claim IABA tried to 'misdirect and distract' as boxing association denies ousting Billy Walsh
Sport Ireland have told the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications that the Irish Amateur Boxing Association [IABA] attempted distract away from their failure to retain Billy Walsh and that confidence in the board was "shaken".
The IABA meanwhile has told the Oireachtas committee its board had concerns over the cost of a €1.6 million pay package to retain Billy Walsh as the head of the association's High Performance Unit.
John Treacy of Sport Ireland has disputed the IABA's claim that Mr Walsh departed over financial issues
Both organisations are appearing before the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications discussing the recent controversy around the departure of Walsh.
Walsh announced his shock resignation as head coach of the Irish High Performance Unit after eight months of negotiations failed to result in a new deal. The fallout from Walsh's defection to USA Boxing continues today and both sides will be quizzed by Committee chair John O'Mahony TD.
The deal broke down on non-financial issues there has been widespread criticism from within the boxing community, including some of the country's Olympic boxers, and externally following the decorated coach's departure.
Speaking at the hearing today, IABA chairman Joe Christle insisted that it was the sporting body's belief that all of Billy Walsh's concerns "had been allayed" after contract negotiations and reiterated that it is a source of "huge regret" that he decided to resign.
"We are hugely disappointed he took that decision," he said, also adding that there was no campaign among the directors of the IABA to oust Walsh out of his role within the sport.
“Suggesting he is a victim of a campaign to oust him from his job is untrue,” he said
Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy again questioned the public statements of the IABA.
"Some of the claims by the IABA were a clear attempt to misdirect and distract away from the failure to retain Billy Walsh," he said. "Our interventions here were based on the belief that we shared with the IABA that Billy should be retained.
"Sport Ireland has written to the IABA with a series of questions to find how this matter unfolded. We await an appropriate response."
"The IABA stated on October 23rd that the majority of negotiations with Billy Walsh were on financial matters. It was clear from the outset that non-financial were of paramount importance."
"It is worry that the chairman never felt confident that he could get the proposal that would work with the IABA in Sandyford by the board. This suggests that the High Performance Unit does not enjoy the confidence of the significant element within the IABA.
"This fracture in the IABA must be addressed once and for all," and denied any claims that Sport Ireland had undermined the IABA in the fall-out from the shock resignation.
Treacy later said that confidence in the IABA board was "shaken" in light of the controversial departure.
Treacy put on record Sport Ireland’s appreciation for Walsh’s achievements as the head of Irish Boxing, saying he had, “rare and sophisticated skills and will be missed by all”, while also offering their support to the remaining coaches and boxers involved with Irish boxing.
The IABA are the highest recipients of Sport Ireland funding, receiving €925,000 – and Treacy said boxing had received a 12pc increase in funding over the past five years.
"The evidence speaks for itself."
Christle added that he was aware of reports of a dysfunctional relationship between Fergal Carruth and Billy Walsh, but believed that it was incorrect.
When questioned with regards to one particular contract clause, whereby Walsh was bound to seek permission before speaking to the media, the IABA sought to clarify this particular point.
"That clause is only there if somebody speaks out against the IABA," Christle said, who admitted that the course of events had resulted in "reputational damage" for the IABA.
Fine Gael TD for Limerick Patrick O'Donovan told the Committee that a "right bags" has been made of the situation before wishing Walsh well in his new role in America.
Last week Sports Ireland chairperson Kieran Mulvey suggested that IABA funding would be reviewed in light of Walsh's departure, but admitted it was desperate move to prevent the coach taking up a role in America.
"Something dramatic needed to be done to stop Billy Walsh going to America," he said.
"We need now to put aside the comments all of us have made and work together. As the chairman acknowledged I have a very good working relationship with Joe Christle, as does the chief executive."
IABA CEO Fergal Carruth was asked whether he had avoided meetings with Walsh to discuss the grievances Walsh had in his role.
"I have not cancelled any meetings with Billy. Absolutely not. We would have seen each other quite a bit (in the last three months) and most of our meetings would have been informal," he said.