Basketball Ireland CEO ‘disappointed and staggered’ by axing of Cork programme

Basketball Ireland CEO ‘disappointed and staggered’ by axing of Cork programme
Bernard O’Byrne

Ladies basketball officials in Cork are facing local protests and strong criticism from Basketball Ireland over a proposal to axe funding for the sport’s local development programme, run by UCC Demons star Ciarán O’Sullivan, writes Tony Leen.

A notification from Cork Ladies Basketball Board (CLBB) chairman George Meade to clubs has confirmed that a decision had been taken to withdraw funding from the development programme. It said the decision had not been taken lightly and was arrived at after “much deliberation and consultation”.

However, the correspondence brought a sharp rebuke for the CLBB from Basketball Ireland chief executive Bernard O’Byrne, who has said he is “disappointed and staggered” by the decision. The committee of the CCLB was due to meet last night to further consider the issue.

In a strongly-worded letter to Cork clubs, Basketball Ireland chief Mr O’Byrne takes issue with claims by George Meade regarding “conditions on accountability” with regard to the development officer programme. Mr Meade claims “we had a promise that our conditions were reasonable and could be put in place. However, we were told at later dates that our conditions were not feasible.”

Though it isn’t specified, it is presumed the CLBB chairman was referring to a ‘promise’ from the sport’s governing body. However, Mr O’Byrne has stated categorically that such claims were “untrue”. The development officer at the centre of the funding row is Irish international Ciarán O’Sullivan, whose credentials for the position are strongly supported by a number of Cork clubs which have stated in correspondence that O’Sullivan is “very highly thought of” amongst clubs in the county.

Ciarán O’Sullivan
Ciarán O’Sullivan

Mr O’Byrne explained to Cork clubs in correspondence: “I personally met your Chair (George Meade) in Dublin at the Cup Final weekend and he outlined his concerns. I guaranteed him that I would speak to the Development Officer, Ciarán O’Sullivan, and ensure that the concerns of the CLBB would be addressed.

“I then travelled to Cork on May 15 to have a review of how things were going. The feedback from you(r) Chair was that he was still unhappy with some aspects but that after the discussion during this meeting he expressed himself as confident that things could be worked out. A few days later in a telephone conversation between us he predicted that ‘everything would be fine’ at an upcoming meeting of the CLBB.”

Mr O’Byrne added: “At no stage did I or anybody within my earing (sic) ever say to him that the CLBB conditions were not feasible. In fact, it was clearly stated to him that we would ensure that all would be done to keep this flagship project on track.

“Basketball Ireland is hugely grateful to and supportive of the CLBB’s support for this project in recent years. We hope it will go on for several years to come as an example of how Area Boards, BIHQ and an LSP can work together positively for basketball. We are deeply disappointed that the CLBB has made the decision to withdraw funding but we respect your right to do so. However, I completely reject the tactic of asserting the reason for doing so was some other parties doing.

“Your Chair or your Board was never told (underlined) that your conditions were not feasible. The Chair was told the absolute opposite (underlined) — that whatever CLBB wanted within reason would be made happen.”

In his letter to clubs, George Meade states that it’s “our opinion that, as members of Basketball Ireland, clubs should still be entitled to use the resource of the Development Officer.

“The Board will have a new Development Programme in place for the start of the 2017/18 season.” The programme is part funded by Basketball Ireland, the Cork Ladies Board and the Cork Men’s Board, with further assistance from the Sports Partnership.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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