Ireland's basketball stars must continue to foot bill to wear green jersey

Ireland’s elite basketball players will have to keep putting their hands in their own pockets and raising funds independently for the foreseeable future in order to wear the green jersey on the international stage.

The plug was pulled on the entire international programme after the association was plunged into nearly €2m of debt almost overnight in 2009 and the way back has been a slow one.

The green light to return was given only on the basis the teams be self-funded. Basketball Ireland’s Elite Performance Committee (EPC), which oversees all international activity, met last night to discuss the future for various representative sides after the senior men and women returned to the international scene for the first time in seven years this summer.

CEO Bernard O’Byrne pointed out that the association does contribute towards playing gear and covers insurance costs and that contributions had been made by the committees running the men’s and women’s leagues.

However, he acknowledged again it was the players — and, in the case of underage sides, their parents — who have had to provide for flights and accommodation, whether through fundraising efforts or personal contributions, and there is no sign of that burden easing significantly.

“In terms of getting back to a situation where Basketball Ireland could pay for everything, I think that is still quite a few years away, and there is even a question as to whether that model is one to aim for,” O’Byrne told the Irish Examiner.

ernard O’Byrne
ernard O’Byrne

“So as we go forward we will look to certainly decrease the amounts that parents, in particular, have to self-fund. That will be done hopefully through a mixture of sponsors and innovative fundraising scenarios that we can present to the various squads. But 12 squads, it is a lot to fund and there would be people in the game who would say all the money shouldn’t go to internationals so there is a balance to be struck.”

The intention is to maintain the current international presence levels. The various Irish squads played 55 European Championship games this summer. The senior men and women both participated in the European Small Nations Championships, finishing fourth in Moldova and second in Gibraltar respectively, but it will be two years before that event swings around again. The plan is for a two-year programme to build towards those championships and the 2017 calendar will be filled with friendly meetings such as those between the senior women and Iceland being held tonight and tomorrow in Tallaght and Cork’s Neptune Stadium.

Mark Scannell is head coach with the women while Colin O’Reilly operated as player/coach with the men. Both will be free to run for the posts again with O’Byrne confirming there will be another appointment process required to fill the positions again.


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