Irish Amateur Boxing Association heavily criticised in official Olympic review
London 2012 debrief broadly positive but policital in-fighting is in nobody’s interest
Billy Walsh, head of the High Performance Unit of the IABA.
The official report on Ireland’s performance at the London Olympics has delivered a strong rebuke to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association and has effectively recommended that it leave Billy Walsh ’s High Performance programme alone to carry forward the recent success of the sport into future Games.
Amid a broadly positive overall review of the Irish experience at London 2012, the key recommendations for boxing suggest the Irish Sports Council insist on changes in the way the IABA interacts with High Performance when agreeing the next round of government funding.
“While the HPP itself is strong, effective and in terms of medals represents good value for money in terms of ISC support,” says the report, “there are clearly issues and frustrations in the wider structure of Irish boxing. There are still situations where IABA committees have the constitutional authority and see fit to over-turn or challenge Performance Director selections, to ask specific athletes to enter ‘box-offs’ against the advice of HP staff and have imposed specific members of staff on the HPP without Performance Director assent.”
Relations between the IABA and the High Performance unit have been strained for a number of years and the Sports Council are keen to clarify the situation once and for all. Although the growing success of the sport here has been the high point of the past two Olympic Games, there is an acknowledgement that the rest of the world has marked Ireland’s card now and that continued bad feeling between the sports’ governing body and the tightly-knit unit that represents the elite is in nobody’s interest.
The independent report, entitled Debrief From 2012 Olympic Games, was carried out by London consultancy firm Knight, Kavanagh and Page. It incorporates 15 sports and is based on interviews with 122 athletes, officials and coaches that have been carried out since the games finished last August.
Although it has been no secret that there has been a steady level of ill-feeling in the amateur boxing ranks, this is the first time an official report has addressed it and come up with recommendations.
“There is,” says the report, “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.
“When interviewed the [IABA]CEO acknowledged the issues faced in respect of the match between the governance of the sport and its present fitness for purpose to host what is, in effect, the country’s leading performance programme.”
Elsewhere, the report was generally positive. “Overall, there is a consensus that the development and management of performance sport has moved forward substantially since 2008. The sophistication and quality of ISC funded performance programmes, the response to the higher demands being made by ISC of National Governing Bodies in this context, the quality of support being supplied by the Irish Institute of Sport and relationships with the Olympic Council of Ireland have all improved markedly.
“The review has identified a sporting infrastructure that is undergoing substantial change. It is moving from an individual coach and athlete led process to one whereby high performance is system based and in which support and scrutiny processes are designed to optimise athlete performance. The key objective has been to ensure that all of the contributory factors are in place and are available at the requisite level of quality. This approach is consistent with that adopted in the majority of successful sporting nations throughout the world and while moving forward across the board is still, inevitably, at a different stage of progress in each sport.”
Along with generic suggestions for the future of Olympic sport, the report has specific recommendations for all 15 sports individually. In athletics, the communications strategy came in for heavy criticism, both internally and in dealings with the media. In equestrian sport, the disruption brought about by the exclusion of Denis Lynch in the run-up to the games was found to have affected preparation. The recommendation of more definite targeting of early qualification in the future is intended to avoid the selection headaches that dominated the build-up to London.
The full report can be read at www.irishsportscouncil.ie.