IT is difficult to have any sympathy for the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) – omnishambles sums up the state of the organisation at the moment.
The confirmation from Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, and Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport, Jack Chambers, that Sport Ireland would be slicing 15pc – or €75,000 – from the IABA’s 2022 core funding of €500,000 was no surprise.
It had been flagged last month in the wake of the overwhelming rejection by the IABA (through its clubs) of a proposal to reform the association’s board of directors.
At face value, it is a case of the chickens coming home to roost.
In a quirky coincidence, the announcement of Sport Ireland’s core funding comes in a week of famous anniversaries for the IABA.
Monday marked 30 years since arguably the most famous hour in the history of Irish sport when Wayne McCullough and Michael Carruth won silver and gold medals respectively at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
It was also the first anniversary of Kellie Harrington’s gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Meanwhile, Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of Katie Taylor’s gold-medal win at the London Olympics.
The underlying message is that for all its obvious imperfections, when it matters, Irish boxers deliver.
We had another reminder last weekend when five Irish fighters representing Northern Ireland were crowned Commonwealth champions in Birmingham.
The team finished top of the boxing roll of honour at the Games with five gold, one silver and one bronze.
This comes in the wake of a double gold for Amy Broadhurst – who also triumphed in Birmingham – and Lisa O’Rourke at the world championship in Istanbul. Gabriel Dossen and Dylan Eagleson won gold and silver at the European Championships – the latter also won gold in Birmingham where a potential new star in Irish boxing, Jude Gallagher, made his mark.
In her speech, Minister Martin spoke about the importance of policies relating to diversity, inclusion and gender balance.
At grassroots level no other sports organisation in Ireland does more to foster diversity, inclusion and gender balance. Yet they’re being penalised.
The Government need to urgently rethink their attitude towards the IABA.
One suspects Deputy Chambers might be eyeing up a promotion when the Cabinet and junior ministers are reshuffled after Leo Varadkar’s return to the Taoiseach’s office in December.
Unless he changes his attitude, the festering sore that is the IABA will still be hanging around in four months’ time.
Setting arbitrary deadlines and threatening the clubs – who are the shareholders and decision-makers in the IABA – with financial sanctions will not work.
The majority of the clubs would welcome reform, but they are not willing to go forward unless there is regime change at the very top of the organisation.
The minister and Sport Ireland will have to accept the unpalatable reality of the situation. They need to get everybody together where a workable solution can be found, even if this ultimately involves the dissolution of the current organisation and setting up a new body.
The IABA may be a problem child but they deliver on the world stage.
This funding cut will impact on boxers at ground level, even though they have no interest or involvement in the sport’s politics.
What is often overlooked is the sport is poorly funded by the Government with many fighters having to support themselves as they bid to become world-class performers.
Disregarding the 15pc cut this year, the core funding to the IABA of €500,000 has remained unchanged since 2020.
Meanwhile, the Baton Twirling Sport Association of Ireland had their funding increased from €25,000 in 2021 to €40,000 this year.
So, instead of making repeat announcements, the minister ought to be on the phone to a respected boxing figure like Gary Keegan, who set up the High Performance programme, imploring him to chair a peace conference where a lasting settlement might be reached.