Basketball Ireland slam Government's 'double standards' after FAI's rescue package

Basketball Ireland has outlined their frustration at the "double standards" of Government after a €30m financial rescue package was agreed for the FAI.

Basketball Ireland CEO Bernard O'Byrne
Basketball Ireland CEO Bernard O'Byrne

Basketball chiefs have contrasted their previous financial struggles with the treatment of football's governing body who have seen estimated debts soar to €62m.

In 2013, Basketball Ireland were ordered to repay €124,000 to the Government, deemed ineligible for Capital Sports Programme grants for five years, and had a €500,000 grant to refurbish the National Basketball Arena withdrawn.

That followed the discovery that €1.24m of grant money hadn't been spent for the intended purpose from 1999 to 2006, being used to fund development programmes rather than to purchase of equipment.

The lack of financial assistance forced Basketball Ireland to discontinue all international teams, "thus damaging the career prospects of a large number of underage players", make half the organisation's employees redundant, and levy their own members to reduce the debt.

"The basketball community in Ireland has been following with interest the announcement surrounding another major sports body, which has benefited from a funding agreement in recent days to allow it time and resources to recover from financial difficulties," read a statement from the Basketball Ireland board.

"While we wish those involved in that sport the very best in navigating their way through what will undoubtedly be a difficult few years to come, the Board wishes to express the frustration of many basketball enthusiasts in our 300,000+ strong community, as it would appear that double standards may be at play for sports that fall outside what are considered the popular sports.

"In 2008, when Basketball Ireland ran into financial difficulties, we found ourselves with an unexpected black hole of debt and financial penalties totalling €1.5 million.

At our darkest time, a similar agreement to that which was awarded last week would have considerably changed the trajectory of Basketball Ireland, and would have proven to be a lifeline.

Last week, Basketball Ireland CEO Bernard O'Byrne, a former FAI chief executive, tweeted: "So who's on the moral high ground now from which Basketball was dictated to when it was in trouble? Where was our bailout? Members and clubs took the pain and the hit. Still grossly underfunded while grubby politicians and lackeys make behind the door deals. #shameonyouall".

The statement notes that the association has since "turned its position around completely while receiving no financial help, but plenty of plaudits".

It has reinstated its international programme, with partial funding from parents and members, enjoyed 60% growth in the past five years with gender participation split of close to 50-50, and established regional academies.

The legacy debt was cleared last September.

In a call to action directed at politicians in the final week of the general election campaign, Basketball Ireland has called on parties and candidates to commit to meeting their representatives following the formation of a new government.

"The Board at Basketball Ireland calls upon all political parties and candidates currently looking for support from the large basketball community around Ireland to commit to meeting with our representatives as soon as a new government is formed, in order to listen to our case for a fresh look at our funding to help us administer and promote our sport to help it progress even further."

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