Saturday 14 December 2019

Boxing rift is on the mend

John Greene

D ESPITE the fact that there is a far from smooth relationship between the Irish Sports Council and the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, progress continues to be made in healing the recent rift over the appointment of a High Performance Director.

Fresh from toasting another brilliant Katie Taylor success, this time at the World Championships in Barbados, the IABA has now embraced a strategic review of the association which is due to take place in the coming months and which is expected to be ready early in the new year.

The initial dispute between the two bodies flared up when the IABA chose Dominic O'Rourke to succeed Gary Keegan as High Performance Director earlier this year, ignoring Billy Walsh who had been fulfilling the role since Keegan's departure after the Beijing Olympics.

The sports council threatened to withhold funding but in July a compromise was reached when O'Rourke was named director of boxing and Walsh was named as high performance coach. A further element of the compromise was a process to formulate a five-year plan for Irish boxing. This is now under way, although it is thought there remains some disquiet in the IABA over the ISC drip-feeding its funding.

The ISC objected to O'Rourke's appointment, and to that of chief executive Don Stewart. Both positions were advertised and due process was observed. By contrast, Athletics Ireland received the council's backing when it appointed John Foley as its CEO without such process. Foley has proved a good appointment, but how is it that the council looked differently on one association over another? Ultimately, this kind of ad hoc governance only gives rise to distrust and undermines the council in the eyes of the associations it funds.

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