The Irish Sports Council (ISC) yesterday revealed its Olympic Games debrief and while there was some praise, there were plenty of negatives too.
The report, carried out by consultants Knight Kavanagh Page, looked into the performance of each of the 15 national governing bodies involved and, while it noted a marked improvement from previous Olympics, there was no shortage of criticism.
Even boxing, which unsurprisingly drew high praise, was hit hard, with the role of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, as opposed to the High Performance Unit, being questioned.
“There are clearly issues and frustrations in the wider structure of Irish boxing,” the report stated. “There are still situations where IABA committees have the constitutional authority and see fit to overturn or challenge the PD [performance director]…This has led to the PD and his team, at times, having to work around rather than with the NGB [national governing body].”
The report didn’t stop there, with the financial management of the IABA being brought into question. It stated: “It is also important that the finances attached to the programme are handled in a transparent format so that ISC, as the auditor of HPP investment in Ireland, can clearly assess what is invested, where and why and with which outcomes. There is, arguably, from an ISC perspective, a case for insisting that certain aspects of the IABA committee structure are either disbanded or have the elements of their constitutional remit that have enabled them to make decisions to cut across those made by the PD and his team, amended.”
The report also noted the stress Billy Walsh has been put under as both high performance director and high performance coach and suggested he receive help in this regard and finances be made available to provide that help.
But it wasn’t just boxing that came in for harsh words. In terms of athletics, the review noted “the ‘stand-off’ relationship between the performance director [Kevin Ankrom] and others in the sport appeared to have become entrenched”, while adding that up to now too many athletes and coaches were working outside of the system.
It also stated: “A continued change in culture will, nevertheless for some, remain a challenge and it is important that the CEO, PD, HPC, coaching and administrative infrastructure are all ‘pulling in the same direction’ if the full potential of Athletics Ireland is to be realised.”
However, perhaps most hard-hitting were the assessments of rowing and tennis. Of the former the report noted that the Irish Sports Council and Rowing Ireland should work out a process whereby a high performance plan be submitted which reflects the current standing of the sport and that future funding be reviewed based on its ability to produce top-level athletes. It also criticised Rowing Ireland’s relationships with clubs and said assurances needed to be given with regard to the “governance and stability of the sport”.
Meanwhile, tennis was told there should be an annual review of athlete and performance progress where “future levels of funding are reviewed by the ISC and are contingent upon the capacity of Tennis Ireland to produce athletes of the requisite standard.”
The report as a whole did, however, note that the improvement in Olympic results were based on a greater sophistication in planning, better quality in support teams and better co-operation between bodies and agencies involved.
Crucially, the report also said there had been a move away from individual athlete and coach funding to performance director-led systems, something long advocated by Gary Keegan, director at the Irish Institute of Sport.
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