New Basketball Ireland CEO draws a line under Bernard O'Byrne controversy

John Feehan has praised the manner in which Basketball Ireland dealt with the issue surrounding his predecessor and has big plans for the sport as he takes over
New Basketball Ireland CEO draws a line under Bernard O'Byrne controversy

John Feehan at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin after being announced as the new CEO of Basketball Ireland. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

New Basketball Ireland CEO John Feehan has stated that the sport does not have any “inherent issues” in terms of diversity as he takes over from Bernard O’Byrne whose tenure came to a controversial end during the summer.

O’Byrne’s 10 years came to an abrupt halt shortly after he posted the phrase “Black Dives Matter” on social media. The message was in reference to a penalty Raheem Sterling was awarded during England’s Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark.

“It’s obviously a very difficult area for all concerned and it is very unfortunate the way it panned out but, having said all of that, I don’t believe that there is any inherent issue in the sport,” said Feehan today. “We are probably the most diverse sport in Ireland.

“Also, the way the board and the sport reacted to the issue when it arose, they dealt with it quickly and in a forthright way. They were quite clear about what was and was not acceptable and that’s a testament to them.

“I am firmly behind the board and the decisions they made. I think they were the right things to do and I don’t believe we have any real issues in the sport as far as diversity is concerned.”

The Basketball Ireland board was quick to announce that a full investigation would be held at the time. A joint statement from the organisation and O’Byrne followed just six days after the initial post with confirmation that he was stepping down with immediate effect

A former FAI chief executive, who was also the serving secretary general of Basketball Ireland, O’Byrne apologised for his remarks which he later admitted were “ill-judged” and what he described as a poor attempt at wordplay.

Feehan assumes the reins with a CV that boasts 16 years experience as CEO of the Six Nations and British and Irish Lions. He held the same position with the PRO12, now known as the United Rugby Championship, for five of those years.

He has also established a number of sports-related businesses, including Lions Rugby Travel, and founded a specialist sports consultancy company called Sport2Sport. A newcomer to basketball, he has big plans for his new surrounds.

“It’s a great opportunity. Basketball is the fourth biggest sport in the country. Not a lot of people know that, and that’s not right.

“So, from that point of view, there is a tremendous amount of potential there. Commercially as well there is an awful lot of work that can be done to highlight how important the sport is. It has huge commercial potential, which has still to be addressed.”

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