Thursday 17 August 2017

Vincent Hogan: IABA continues to be faithful to an archaic constitution that launched the latest petty turf war

 

New High Performance Director Bernard Dunne. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
New High Performance Director Bernard Dunne. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

There's a story told referencing a previous version of the same tedious war now ripping Irish boxing asunder.

It relates to a Government representative meeting IABA officials to communicate concern about matters of governance within the Association. The response he gets from a senior IABA official is brutally, vulgarly succinct. "F**k governance!" he is told.

That official is no longer involved, but his philosophy still echoes.

Minister Patrick O'Donovan certainly seemed confused as to who was even running the IABA after what he described as a "difficult" meeting with boxing officials yesterday morning.

On his way into that meeting the Association president Pat Ryan assured an RTÉ reporter that there was "no division" with the IABA.

This from a body that has two men claiming to be chairman and two boards claiming to be legitimate.

Hence last night's box-off between Dean Gardiner and Martin Keenan at the National Stadium was never going to resolve anything beyond the personal ambitions of two super-heavyweight boxers. Their stories are peripheral to the fundamental issue at play here. One in which Irish amateur boxing continues to be faithful to an archaic constitution.

That constitution is at the heart of Sport Ireland's threat to withdraw funding.

Both Billy Walsh and Gary Keegan before him implored what used to be the Irish Sports Council to follow the UK model and fund boxing's High Performance unit directly rather than finance the Association with whom HP has always had an uneasy relationship.

Walsh and Keegan believed that Ireland's elite boxers would immediately be in a better place if governed by the Institute of Sport rather than a 30-plus group of volunteers meeting on average once a month.

That's the essential constituency of the IABA's Central Council, the body that decided this week against newly-appointed HP director Bernard Dunne being team manager for the upcoming European Championships.

Dunne, thus, finds himself in precisely the same predicament that faced Keegan for the Beijing Olympics, the IABA appointing one of their volunteers as team manag er ahead of the High Performance boss.

Sport Ireland insists that the IABA has signed up to all the recommendations of the 'Rio Review', legislation that would over-ride precisely this kind of petty turf war. Yet it is the board (or at least a board) of the IABA that committed to implementing those recommendations, not Central Council.

And any implementation requires rule changes, without which, authority in matters of team selection resides with the Council.

An IABA statement last night revealed that the board had, as yet, been unable to get Central Council to meet for discussions on a new rule book.

Take it that this story could run and run then.

Hence a body that depends on taxpayers' money for 90pc of its annual funding now has members questioning, not merely the identity of their own board or chairman, but the actual legitimacy of Dunne's recent appointment as High Performance director.

As one insider put it last night: "Bernard was sold a pig in a poke!"

Minister O'Donovan was clearly exasperated by what he encountered yesterday, but he was - presumably - well briefed beforehand by Sport Ireland officials for whom dealings with the IABA have never been entirely harmonious. John Treacy is now putting a deadline of June 30 on Irish boxing signing up to the Rio review. Failure to do that, he implies, may lead to a funding withdrawal.

Yet, Sport Ireland has had its finger on that trigger for a decade now and never fired a bullet. And you get the distinct impression that certain people in the IABA doubt they ever will.

Irish Independent

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