Thursday 18 January 2018

10 questions which the Oireachtas committee need to ask in Billy Walsh saga

Billy Walsh watches the Women’s Olympic Boxing team trials at Memphis Cook Convention Centre, Tennessee yesterday JIM BROWN / SPORTSFILE
Billy Walsh watches the Women’s Olympic Boxing team trials at Memphis Cook Convention Centre, Tennessee yesterday JIM BROWN / SPORTSFILE

Sean McGoldrick

The pictures from Memphis, Tennessee of Billy Walsh wearing a US Boxing jacket while observing their top female boxers in action in the country's Olympic trials graphically illustrates how the split between the Wexford native and Irish boxing is now complete.

Just 11 days after presiding over Ireland's best ever performance at the men's World Championships in Doha, Walsh is gone. His priority now is the performance of the US women's team at the World Championships in Kazakhstan in January.

But the fallout from his resignation as Head Coach of the IABA's High Performance Unit continues in Ireland. The blame game is in full swing. The two parties most centrally involved in the controversy, the Irish Amateur Boxing Association and Sports Ireland - who provide the funding to operate the High Performance Unit - come face to face today in the Dáil.

The newly-elected IABA president Pat Ryan, together with chief executive Fergal Carruth and Joe Christle, chairman of the Association's board of directors, are expected to represent the association with the chairman of Sports Ireland - formerly the Irish Sports Council - Kieran Mulvey and chief executive John Treacy in the other corner. They will be quizzed by the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications chaired by former Mayo, Leitrim and Galway GAA manager John O'Mahony TD.

Realistically, it is unlikely that there will be any significant new revelations about the biggest controversy to hit Irish sport since the infamous Saipan affair involving Roy Keane's abrupt departure from the Irish soccer squad on the eve of the 2002 World Cup.

So what are the key questions that the members of the Oireachtas committee ought to be asking?

Questions for the IABA:

1 Even though Billy Walsh effectively doubled up as Head Coach AND High Performance director for nearly seven years, why did the IABA refuse to award him the title of High Performance Director?

2 Why was the first reaction of Fergal Carruth and Joe Christle to Walsh's revelation that he was considering an offer from US Boxing that they should issue a joint amicable press release announcing his departure when the time came?

3 Why did the IABA move Walsh's administrative secretary to another office without his knowledge or consent?

4 Why did the IABA include clauses which specially prohibited Walsh from having any contact with the Sports Council, the Olympic Council or the media without the written consent of the chief executive of the IABA in the final contract documents they exchanged with Walsh's advisors?

5 How many of the 60 amendments that Walsh's advisors sought to change in the final draft of his proposed contract did the IABA's Board of Directors agree to?

Questions for Sports Ireland:

1 Even though the Irish Sports Council and now Sports Ireland are the IABA's pay masters why did they not insist on (a) the IABA appointing a High Performance Director after Gary Keegan left in 2008; (b) giving the HP director complete control for the selection of elite teams for international competitions; and (c) appoint ing a paid member of the HPU staff as team manager rather than an amateur official as team managers for major championships?

2 Why did Sports Ireland effectively disengage from the talks to keep Walsh in Ireland after the IABA rejected a deal brokered on August 22?

3 Given that Walsh had resigned as Head Coach and almost certainly verbally agreed to take up a position with US Boxing, what was the rationale behind Mulvey's critical remarks on RTé's 'Prime Time' programme and later before an Oireachtas hearing about the conduct of the IABA?

4 Does Sports Ireland have confidence in the Board of Directors of the IABA and specifically in the organisation's chief executive Fergal Carruth?

5 How does Sports Ireland propose to repair the damage caused to the working relationship between the two organisations by this row just 10 months ahead of the Rio Olympics where the boxers will be Ireland's main medal contenders?

Irish Independent

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