Saturday 21 April 2018

Shots fired as boxing row takes another turn

Joe Ward delivered a silver medal for Ireland at the World Boxing Championship in Hamburg. Photo: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile
Joe Ward delivered a silver medal for Ireland at the World Boxing Championship in Hamburg. Photo: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Just 48 hours after Joe Ward secured his third and Ireland's 13th medal at the World Boxing Championships, another damaging internal row has erupted within Irish boxing.

The Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) Board of Directors and the association's Central Council are at loggerheads again - this time over the adoption of a new rule book.

Even though members of the Central Council, including president of the IABA Pat Ryan, sit on the Board of Directors, which is chaired by Joe Christle, the relationship between the two bodies is difficult.

The latest spat has erupted over an extraordinary general meeting called by the Central Council to discuss changes to the IABA rule book which was scheduled for next Sunday in Parnells GAA club in Dublin.

The EGM was cancelled on the instruction of the Board of Directors, but Ryan insists the meeting will go ahead as planned, though there is a threat of a High Court injunction hanging over it.

Earlier this year, Sport Ireland threatened to withdraw funding from the IABA unless they adopted the recommendations made following a review of the Irish boxers' performances at the Rio Olympics.

These centred on the high performance director having full control over team selection and being appointed team manager for elite championships.

There was a further controversy at the time over whether a former director, David O'Brien, had been legally elected as chairman of the board - a claim repudiated by the incumbent chair Joe Christle, who was backed by Sport Ireland.

These issues came to a head at a Board of Directors meeting in June. The president of the Munster Council of the IABA, Gerry O'Mahoney - who had been nominated as the team manager for the European championships in the Ukraine - declined to accept that Christle was the chairman and withdrew before the meeting began.

However, Pat Ryan, Bernie Harold, president of the Leinster Council of the IABA, and Kevin Duffy, a member of the Ulster Council, accepted that Mr Christle was the chairman, which effectively ended that element of the row.


Furthermore, Ryan and Duffy supported the adoption of a new rule book which included the Rio recommendations; Harold abstained in the vote. The secretary general of the Olympic Council of Ireland, Sarah O'Shea, - who was the co-author of a strategic plan for the future of the Irish boxing - was involved in the drafting of the document.

Bernard Dunne, the new high performance director, acted as the team manager at subsequent European Championships and at the Worlds last week.

The uneasy peace didn't last, however. Next Sunday's EGM was called to approve a different version of the 'new' rule book drawn up by a sub-committee of the Central Council.

In an email dated September 1, a copy of which the Irish Independent has obtained, the chief executive of the IABA, Fergal Carruth, informed the Central Council that he has been directed by the Board of Directors to 'advise you that the EGM is invalid and is hereby formally cancelled by direction of the board of directors'.

But Carruth's email drew a sharp response from Ryan who in an email to members declared: "this is surely proof, if proof was needed, that there is a concerted effort to undermine the authority of the general membership by a group of directors who are neither elected nor indeed answerable to the ordinary members.

"As President of the IABA, I wish to put on record the fact that I will not be bullied nor will I be pressured by threats of a court injunction as indicated at the recent board meeting," declared Ryan in the email in which he also stated that the EGM was going ahead as planned next Sunday.

Irish Independent

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