The Men’s Senior European Championships will take place in Kharkiv in just a few weeks time and the selection of the team for the Ukraine has seen the eruption of a crisis at the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) which has been bubbling for the past few months.
A messy power struggle with numerous facets which can perhaps although not entirely be typified as the IABA ‘old guard’ versus those backed by Sport Ireland who want greater control given to the High Performance Unit.
There’s little doubt that all parties believe they have Irish boxing’s best interests at heart, however it is also without doubt that the sport will suffer until a resolution is found.
Below is a rough outline of the ongoing battle in the boardrooms of Irish boxing.
- The aftermath of the medal-less, and admittedly disastrous, Rio Olympics saw the IABA undertake an independent review and strategic plan – ‘Boxing Clever’ – while Sport Ireland recently released the ‘Rio Review.’
- Both would advocate a greater prominence of the High Performance Unit as well as the appointment of a High Performance Director for the first time in over eight years.
- A wide search and selection process would take place and Bernard Dunne would be chosen as the man to replace Gary Keegan after over eight years as the official High Performance Director.
- HOWEVER, Dunne’s appointment on April 27th came under a dark cloud.
- At the official announcement, boxing journalist Sean McGoldrick would reveal there had been a split in the IABA Board of Directors just days previously and that two men were claiming to be Chairman – incumbent Joe Christle (whose term is believed to have ended last October) and Waterford’s David O’Brien, chairman of the APB Sub Committee and a member of the ten-man IABA board.
- O’Brien’s nomination came following a meeting of five of the 10 board members – O’Brien, IABA President Pat Ryan, IABA VP Joe Hernon, Gerry O’Mahony of the Munster Provincial Council and Bernie Harold of the Leinster Provincial Council.
- For meetings to be valid they require a majority of board members present. The five who met believed they were a majority as, as revealed by Kevin Byrne, board member Joe McKeever appears to be ineligible under AIBA rules due to his position as Medical Officer to the professional Boxing Union of Ireland – meaning that they had five out of nine eligible board members, a majority.
- This fivesome felt that the appointment of Dunne, coming under the chairmanship of the seemingly out of time Christle, was therefore invalid.
- O’Brien’s ‘election’ came as a succession to the conclusion of his four-year term as a board member however, with this not being officially recognised, O’Brien was replaced on the board by David Kearns.
- The issue remains unresolved, with both sides seeking legal advice.
- With Dunne’s appointment, Sport Ireland want the IABA to continue with the Rio Review recommendations quickly, giving more power to the High Performance Unit – something which is seemingly not supported by the IABA Central Council, which features numerous members of the breakaway board, who would generally prefer greater centralisation of Irish boxing.
- This involves the implementation of a new rule book – and there have been two proposed. One comes from the Central Council and is believed to crucially give them final say on team selections, while the second is closer in line to the Rio Review recommendations – and Sport Ireland insist that this one must be implemented for funding to continue.
- A May 29th ultimatum from Sport Ireland chief John Treacy to IABA CEO Fergal Carruth stated that “funding for the IABA High Performance Programme is conditional on the implementation of the Rio Review so, in turn, requires the new Rule Book to be operational in 2017. Sport Ireland would like to see the new Rule Book in place by June 30 2017. Can you please provide Sport Ireland with an assurance that this timeline will be met?”
- This comes against a backdrop of team selection for the European Championships and a nine-man squad, with Dunne as team manager, was put forward by the HPU.
- The Central Council would not give their approval to Dunne as team manager, instead picking Gerry O’Mahoney (although Dunne will still most likely be at the Championships just not under this title), and also dismissed the possibility of box-offs for places (as Dunne and the HPU had put forward two potential names at +91kg).
- With no box-offs, super heavyweight saw the choice and ratification of the experienced Dean Gardiner over Senior Champion Martin Keenan.
- Again as revealed by Kevin Byrne, a Limerick person would dispute Gardiner’s selection over Rathkeale’s Keenan and contacted Junior Minister for Sport, Limerick man Patrick O’Donovan – who would meet with a number of the IABA top brass last week regarding a number of issues and this, alongside Sport Ireland’s funding threat, would push the IABA Civil War into centre stage.
- A box-off between Gardiner and Keenan, to take place in Dublin on Wednesday night, was subsequently ordered on Monday.
- A further meeting was scheduled for last night in Leinster House however that would fall through due to the non-appearance of Pat Ryan and is currently in the process of being rescheduled.
- Speaking last night on Newstalk 106FM’s Off The Ball, Kevin Byrne would reveal that David O’Brien is now calling for the resignation of both CEO Fergal Carruth and currently listed chairman Christle.