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IABA Finally Issue A Response And They've Come Out All Guns Blazing

IABA Finally Issue A Response And They've Come Out All Guns Blazing
By Conor O'Leary

Back on Monday, the IABA released a very short statement offering their regret and best wishes to Billy Walsh following his resignation as the head coach of Irish boxing. What the IABA did not do, however, is to explain why Billy Walsh resigned at all.

Amid mounting criticism and revelations that the IABA pulled an agreement with Billy Walsh, the amateur boxing association appeared on the Pat Kenny show on Newstalk to outline their position on Billy Walsh's resignation, while they released a strong statement condemning the allegations of Sport Ireland.

The IABA statement focuses on two key areas - their efforts to retain Billy Walsh's services, and responding to criticism from Sport Ireland.

The IABA originally felt it was inappropriate to publicly comment, but feel that they have been forced to following "a scurrilous, disingenuous and highly questionable attack on Irish boxing by Sport Ireland (formerly the Irish Sports Council), its Chief Executive, Mr John Tracey and its Chairman, Mr Kieran Mulvey."

On 22 August a meeting took place and a draft proposal was presented by Sport Ireland to the IABA. In the interests of Irish boxing, the IABA attendees expressed their concerns with the draft proposal. We were given assurances at that point that those concerns would be addressed; however, what transpired was a different draft proposal.

Notwithstanding this, the draft proposal was presented by the Chairman to the Board of the IABA on the 25 August, but no formal vote was taken as the Chairman was of the opinion that the vote would be negative, which would have made it more difficult for the organisation to retain Billy’s services as head coach. At this point, we received a communication from Sport Ireland indicating that they had no further role in this matter.

Subsequently, through the good offices of Minister Michael Ring TD, a proposal was brokered by him that was agreed to in full by all parties and then presented to Billy and his advisors in mid September. Formal contracts then followed. Billy’s solicitors reverted with a series of suggested amendments to the contracts, many of which were acceded to by the IABA. Those contracts as amended were again forwarded to his solicitors. The next communication the IABA received was the resignation on 19 October.

The chair of the IABA, John Crystal appeared on Pat Kenny to specifically refer to why the original proposal was withdrawn from the IABA. He said, contrary to what was reported, he did bring the original proposal from last August to the board of directors. Crystal said that he didn't call for a vote, because he sensed from discussions that the vote would not have passed. Crystal said that he was concerned of the effect of a negative vote, and felt that the prejudice from such a vote would harm future negotiations with Billy Walsh.

Concerning the attack from Sport Ireland:

The IABA was shocked by the very public attack on it and on Irish boxing, by the Chairman and CEO of Sport Ireland. 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.

This, we believe is yet another clear example of Sport Ireland’s officials seeking to go beyond their authority and its statutory mandate and act Ultra Vires their statutory power or remit. The agency has a track record and form in this regard and has paid dearly for it in the past.

The Board of the IABA has full confidence in its leadership team, ably led by CEO, Fergal Carruth. The organisation abides and attests to best practice governance guidelines. The financial accounts of the organisation are fully audited and the IABA rejects in the strongest possible terms the unsubstantiated inferences by Sport Ireland that the IABA is not governed effectively. We hereby call upon the Chairman and CEO of Sport Ireland to unreservedly withdraw the derogatory comments and unsubstantiated allegations made by them against our CEO.

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.

This is a defence of Irish boxing against claims by individuals who have absolutely no experience, knowledge or credibility in this sport, a sport akin to the GAA that is driven at a local level by people passionate about their sport, who are providing the pipeline of boxers that will bring continued success to Ireland on the world stage.

What we find most reprehensible is that Sport Ireland appears to have ulterior motives, does not have the best interests of Irish boxing at heart, has made unsubstantiated allegations, and we believe, have issued threats to funding Irish boxing that are fundamentally illegal and beyond its authority. The organisation was greatly relieved and heartened to hear the comments of Minister’s Donoghue and Ring who have stated that there will be no reduction in the funding of Irish boxing arising out of the resignation of Billy Walsh.

It's a quite strong statement, that can be read in full on their website. What is clear is that neither side are fully admitting to blame, and this may not be the last we've heard of the issue.

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Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

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