Irish Athletic Boxing Association power struggle rumbles on

The Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) are in a race against time to preserve their public funding as a power struggle between two rival camps in the organisation shows no signs of dissipating.

A leaked letter from IABA president Pat Ryan to chairman Joe Christle last night revealed a number of points of contention that have created a division between the association’s hierarchy and many of its members, including figures on their Central Council.

The letter appeared on social media just hours after Sport Ireland had issued a statement insisting IABA funding for the final quarter of the year will be suspended on July 1 if the boxing association does not introduce a new Rule Book - a document that would see the High Performance Unit enjoy full autonomy in team selection and essentially dilute the influence of the IABA’s Central Council.

The latter group have been key players in a recent split among the IABA’s Board of Directors, which has resulted in a group - headed by Waterford’s David O’Brien - opposing the chairmanship of Joe Christle. And it seems the ‘rebel’ group will not back down from their opposition to such changes despite Sport Ireland’s funding threat.

Five board members attempted to elect O’Brien as a new chairman last March and IABA president Ryan – who was one of the ‘rebels’ – yesterday penned a strongly-worded letter to Christle, criticising many of the incumbent chairman’s recent decisions as well as outlining concerns in relation to the organisation’s current leadership and their attempts to change the IABA Rule Book and power structure.

The rebel group have a range of concerns - from decision-making at the top of the association to an alleged lack of funding in grassroots and underage boxing. Sport Ireland representatives met with some of the ‘pro-Christle’ IABA board on Tuesday before issuing their statement yesterday, which reiterated Sport Ireland’s recognition of Christle as IABA chairman and insisted the body “has no reason to believe there is another chairman of the organisation or an alternative board”.

However, the Sport Ireland board has deemed the IABA “is in breach of its terms and conditions of funding and took the decision to suspend all funding to the IABA, effective from July 1, unless certain criteria are satisfied.”

The potential suspension of funds will not affect the four carded boxers in Ireland’s High Performance team as Joe Ward, Steven Donnelly, Brendan Irvine, Kellie Harrington and Christina Desmond are assured of their grant money in the build-up to the (men’s) European and World Championships.

Sport Ireland also revealed the IABA has already received 75% of its €1.132m ‘Core and High Performance funding’ for 2017, which means the boxing association is fully funded until the end of September.

However, the IABA risk losing the remaining 25% for the year’s final quarter if they do not meet Sport Ireland’s demands. This money covers a wide range of costs from IABA staff salaries to admin expenditure and day-to-day expenses for the running of the High Performance gym.

It is understood the High Performance Unit will lose out on some €175,000 while administration will be hit by a loss of around €100,000 should the suspension kick in.

A June 30 deadline has been set for the IABA to introduce a new Rule Book in keeping with the post-Olympics ‘Rio Review’, while the boxing association must “address the inadequate governance arrangements giving rise to the current difficulties.”

Sport Ireland claimed in yesterday’s statement IABA representatives are adamant a new Rule Book will be introduced by the deadline.

However, it seems unlikely this will happen under the IABA’s current rules as it is believed a significant amount of the association’s grassroots membership – as well as the majority of Central Council – oppose a number of proposed changes in the new rule book put forward by the IABA board.

Ryan’s letter reinforces that view. In response to correspondence from Christle, IABA president Ryan writes: “Joe, you are quite well aware all is not right in our sport. You have been put on notice on a number of occasions the general membership recognise the current organisational structures within the IABA are not fit for purpose.”


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