Nivea withdrawal adds to Irish basketball’s financial woes

Basketball Ireland’s hopes of climbing out of debt by 2017 have been set back after long-time SuperLeague sponsors Nivea ended its association with the sport.

Nivea withdrawal adds to Irish basketball’s financial woes

This follows the Irish Sports Council’s decision to exclude the body from the Sports Capital Programme for the next five years as punishment for the misuse of grants between 2004 and 2009.

Secretary general of Basketball Ireland, Bernard O’Byrne, expressed disappointment at the loss of Nivea, but is optimistic a replacement can be found.

“The SuperLeague is a good product, it’s getting better all the time and we would hope to have a new sponsor in place by the start of the new season,” he said.

As part of the restructuring of their debt in 2010, an annual repayment of €200,000 must be made, but O’Byrne is confident they will continue to meet their repayments.

“So far we have met our targets and we are on course to be debt free by 2017 which was the aim set out when we took the decision to refinance.”

However, Basketball Ireland are still paying off a loan of €400,000 from FIBA Europe, €328,824 of which is still outstanding.

The ban from the Sports Capital Programme is part of a three-pronged penalty imposed after grants allocated were not spent on the activities they were earmarked for and, as a result, the €500,000 approved in 2008 for the upgrade of the National Basketball Arena was withdrawn while the association has been slapped with a €124,000 fine.

O’Byrne, described the punishment as harsh, but added the decision allows the administration move away from “legacy” issues. “Admittedly, we did deserve some punishment, but what we’ve been hit with is both harsh and regrettable. All we can do is take it and drive forward,” he said.

Exclusion from the Sports Capital Programme means Basketball Ireland are prohibited to apply for funding until 2017, but O’Byrne will make a case in two to three years.

He did admit the withdrawal of the €500,000 earmarked for the renovation of the National Arena represents a “considerable set-back”.

“The stadium is not falling down, but it is almost 20 years in existence and some major jobs need to be carried out which can’t be done without that money. Again, this is part of the punishment and we just have to take it.”

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