Wednesday 13 December 2017

Letter twist in boxing row as funding axe hangs over the sport


President of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), Pat Ryan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile
President of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), Pat Ryan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile

Michael Verney

The bitter civil war engulfing Irish boxing took yet another twist yesterday, with a letter containing a series of claims emerging after Sport Ireland threatened to cut the funding of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) by July 1.

President of the IABA Pat Ryan declined to comment directly on the ultimatum from Sport Ireland - which wants them to change their rulebook and overhaul how they conduct their business - apart from confirming that "we will have a Central Council meeting on Saturday where all matters will be discussed".

However, in a letter seen by the Irish Independent from Ryan to Board of Directors chairman Joe Christle, the IABA boss said he repeatedly notified Christle that the general membership believe that Irish boxing's current organisational structures are not fit for purpose.

The IABA Board of Directors is split with members, some of whom, Pat Ryan, Bernie Harold, Gerry O'Mahony and IABA vice-president Joe Hernon, are on the Central Council and are elected. The quartet backed David O'Brien to "succeed" Christle as chairman earlier this year. But, Sport Ireland and the rest of the Board of the IABA recognise Christle as chairman.

In his letter, Ryan claims: "Joe, you are quite well aware that all is not right in our sport. You have been put on notice on a number of occasions that the general membership recognise that the organisational structures within the IABA are not fit for purpose.

"Who will suffer in the event that funding will be withdrawn? In excess of 99pc of boxing activity is undertaken by the 360 clubs, 26 County Boards and four Provinces who do not receive a cent of that funding."

Ryan also referred to the recent fallout from the team selection for the European Championships, which ended with Martin Keenan losing out to Dean Gardiner for the super-heavyweight spot after a box-off.

High Performance director Bernard Dunne had submitted a list with the two names for ratification to the IABA Central Council last month and, in Ryan's opinion, he felt it would have been "irresponsible" to send Keenan due to his relative inexperience.

"The HP Director expressed a preference for Martin Keenan over Dean Gardner (sic)," according to Ryan's letter. "This was clearly a misguided choice. Martin Keenan is a young boxer, just starting out on his international career."

Ryan believes the general membership would not be averse to the setting up of a High Performance Advisory Board, but claims that "on one issue I can be reasonably certain: the Central Council will retain its right to oversee team selections."

Sport Ireland want Dunne to have autonomy over team selection and, in a statement issued yesterday, they said they deem the IABA to be "in breach of its terms and conditions of funding" and took the decision to suspend all funding to the IABA, effective from July 1, unless certain criteria are satisfied.

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