Tuesday 24 April 2018

Sport Ireland: IABA haven't told us what transpired in the weeks before Billy Walsh's resignation

Billy Walsh's time at the IABA's High Performance Unit saw great success for Irish boxers
Billy Walsh's time at the IABA's High Performance Unit saw great success for Irish boxers
Billy Walsh
Declan Whooley

Declan Whooley

The IABA has publicly claimed "complete shock" over the resignation of Billy Walsh and insisted not to know the non-financial reasons he left his post as head coach of the Irish High Performance Unit.

The decorated boxing coach left Dublin yesterday morning after resigning from his position as head coach at the Irish High Performance Unit on Monday morning after eight months of negotiations failed to result in a new deal.

Yesterday Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring and Sport admitted he had given up on the chance of persuading Walsh to change his mind and called on the sporting body to issue a statement, which they did this morning.

In the statement the body claims it "did everything within reason to meet his demands" and were under the impression the coach was going to sign a new contract before announcing his resignation on Monday.

Sport Ireland responded with this statement this evening: "Sport Ireland has noted the statement made today by the IABA regarding the recent resignation of Billy Walsh as Head Coach.  Unfortunately there was very little new information contained within it and it remains unclear what transpired in the weeks before Billy Walsh’s resignation.

"Sport Ireland has been invited to attend the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications on Wednesday October 28. This is the appropriate forum for Sport Ireland, as the custodian of taxpayers money,  to provide a comprehensive statement  to all matters  arising.

"On October 21 Sport Ireland wrote to the IABA seeking answers to certain specific and relevant questions. It would be very useful if those responses were provided in advance of the Oireachtas Committee meeting."

Speaking on Newstalk's The Pat Kenny Show this morning, IABA chairman Joe Christle said there was nothing more they could do to prevent Walsh from leaving for America.

Billy Walsh and John Joe Nevin at the 2012 Olympic Games in London
Billy Walsh and John Joe Nevin at the 2012 Olympic Games in London

"In the interests of Irish boxing, it was and is our opinion that it is best to do everything possible in our power to retain his services," he said.

"After the proposal on August 22nd, a deal was brokered by Minister for Sport Michael Ring on 14th September. Minister Ring brought the IABA down to Athlone and Sports Council. He set out 'this is what I want' having taken into account all the concerns.

"That deal was put with full consent and knowledge of both the Sports Council and IABA. We did a deal with him [Walsh] on Monday, offering all the terms the Minister and the Sports Council had indicated were to be offered to him.

"The deal took into account the concerns of the IABA which had not been taken into account of in the draft proposal on August 22nd. Those concerns included a package of severance together with a new contract.

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"The Sports Council told us exactly how much to offer him, the salary and bonus structure. The concerns around the bonus structure of the IABA were that we did not want a bonus to be paid to one coach and not to all coaches, and we did not want a bonus to paid to coaches and not to boxers."

Christle outlined that the deal brokered by the Minister was a bonus pool that would be split 50/50 between coaches and boxers. The IABA indicated to Walsh that the new deal would have to eliminate the threat of going to America, which the coach readily agreed to.

Billy Walsh
Billy Walsh

"He said to me 'I am satisfied with the deal'. He looked me in the eye and offered me his hand," the chairman told listeners. "At this point [on the Friday] the Sports Council and IABA were under the impression that all that was required was sign the exchanged contracts.

"What we received on Monday morning was a letter of resignation in the strongest possible terms. Something happened between him saying he was in contract negotiations on the Marian Finucane Show [Saturday] with the IABA to Monday when he presented his resignation.

"He had said it was to do with non-financial aspects of the contract. We do no not know what those were. He did not outline what they were."

According to Christle, when pressed last week, Walsh indicated he didn't know if he was the head coach and leader of the team.  It was explained to him that all the coaches reports into him and he reports into chief executive, which allayed his concerns.  All parties believed the contract was a matter of course until Monday's turn of events.

Irish Sports Council chairman Kieran Mulvey indicated that funding may be cut to the IABA as a result of the saga, but Ring insisted yesterday that this would not be the case.

"That will not happen. I can assure the IABA that won't happen. I will not allow the grassroots of the sport to be affected," he claimed.

The IABA was however clearly unhappy with the "disingenuous" comments made by the Sports Council.

“We pay the chief executive, we pay other administrative staff and I’m not happy. I’m not happy how the chief executive has performed on this matter and I’m saying it bluntly here and that will be reviewed,” Mulvey stated earlier this week.

"The IABA was shocked by the very public attack on it and on Irish boxing, by the Chairman and CEO of Sport Ireland," they said in today's statement. "An attack, that was totally disingenuous and plainly part of a campaign by a statutory state body to exercise control over the IABA’s High Performance Unit."

"We will vigorously defend the disgraceful allegations made by Sport Ireland, both directly in our future interactions with the agency, and reserve the right to take whatever further action we deem appropriate."

Mulvey today lamented the fact the statement did not arrive while Walsh was still in the country.

"Billy is not immediately in a position to respond [IABA statement]. If all these issues were of such importance and needed to be clarified, they should have been clarified on Monday evening after Billy gave his resignation."

Minister for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring has offered to sit down with the IABA and Sport Ireland to iron out the differences which have emerged over the past five days.

Speaking today, Minister Ring said: ‘All involved here are sorry to see Billy leave for the U.S. and while this situation has caused passions to run high, now is the time to re-direct that passion in the interest of the future of the sport. We must focus our efforts on the week and months ahead and on how we can best support our athletes as they prepare for the Olympic Games in Rio next year.

“Nobody wanted Billy to leave but he is gone now and it is time for us to re-group and all work together. We can only do that if everyone takes a deep breath and cools down.  There has been a lot of intense discussion over the last few days, primarily due to the love people have for the sport and their interest in its future. 

"I am aware that Sport Ireland and the IABA have both put their positions on the record in recent days about what has happened.  For the sake of Irish boxing, at all levels, I believe that everyone should now focus on what’s ahead and what is best for our athletes. Adding fuel to the fire by continuing the discussion over the airwaves is not helpful at this point.

“I propose to sit down with Sport Ireland and the Irish Amateur Boxing Association as soon as possible, with a view to moving forward in a spirit of cooperation.  I am happy to make myself available to both sides and to listen to what they have to say.

"Boxers and coaches at all levels need to set this distraction behind them as we head into 2016 and the Rio Games.  We are exceptionally proud of the success story of Irish boxing to date and I know that the future is bright and that we can look forward with confidence to further success in the future. We can only do that by all working together.”

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