Funding and high-performance support services for Irish boxers will not be impacted by the decision of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) to effectively boycott both the men’s and women’s World Championships later this year.
Under normal circumstances, team participation and medal-winning performances at those championships, organised by the International Boxing Association (IBA), would in turn influence individual grants and other high-performance needs. Last Friday, the IABA announced that no Irish boxers will attend next month’s women’s World Championships in New Delhi, India.
The decision means world champions Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke will not be able to defend the titles they won last year. Nor will the IABA attend the Men’s World Championships in Uzbekistan in May – both decisions made given the growing concern with the IBA and its lack of governance and transparency, along with the participation of boxers from Russia and Belarus, currently suspended in most other sports since the invasion of Ukraine.
The IBA, formerly AIBA, has been suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 2019.
Last year, both Broadhurst and O’Rourke also won $100,000 to go along with their World titles, with similar prize money on offer in New Delhi.
Speaking at the announcement of core National Governing Body (NGB) funding for 2023, Sport Ireland CEO Dr Una May said the IABA’s decision was entirely independent, but that other championships, namely the European Games in Poland in June, would now be the focus of Irish boxers.
“I think it is important that the IABA has the autonomy to make those decisions themselves and I think getting guidance from us in terms of what is the Government’s position is important,” said May. “But we are not in the position of telling people what they should and shouldn’t do in the situation. I think we were comfortable with the decision they made. They made it for good reasons and for a broad range of reasons and I think that it is important that the recognise that overall governance in the international federation is an issue beyond just the black and white of Russia [or] not Russia.
“Everybody knows that it is difficult for the athletes and this is the debate that is going on globally, around whether it is fair on athletes when the Government maybe isn’t completely and utterly in adherence with our general values and beliefs that they are penalised. But sometimes we have to make difficult decisions in order to make a commitment and demonstrate our commitment to those values and where we are not accepting of a situation that isn’t as we see it 100 per cent appropriate.
“We never made any suggestion to them that funding was going to be in any way linked with their decision. We had to leave them to make the right decision for the right reasons and not linked with funding.”
The IABA decision was taken last Thursday night, following a joint meeting of the IABA’s Board of Directors, Central Council and Unit representatives and follows the US boxing team, who withdrew from the World Championships last week.
“There will be other opportunities and that will be taken into consideration,” May said of the boxing funding. “The carding criteria are developed taking into consideration the opportunity athletes have so they will be competing at the European Games, for example, and it will be the most important qualification event for them this year.
“They are very important anyway is one of the key Olympic Games qualifying event. The world championships were not an Olympic Games qualifying event. These criteria for funding are reached in the context of the global movements in sport.
The IBA are currently locked into a vicious dispute with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who have had issues with the sport of Olympic boxing for several years over its governance.
Both the USA and Ireland are closely aligned with the Common Cause Alliance (CCA), a group of nations whose focus is for boxing to remain at the Olympics. Earlier on Tuesday, the Czech Boxing Association (CBA) and GB Boxing also withdrew from the women’s World Championships due to the planned participation of Russia and Belarus under their national flags.
IBA president Umar Kremlev responded to the US and Irish boycotts claiming that officials who voted for it are “worse than hyenas and jackals”.
In making the funding announcement, May highlighted the fact Sport Ireland core allocations for the 58 NGB’s is up six per cent (€1 million) from last year to €16m, investment in the 29 Local Sports Partnerships also topping the €10m mark with a total €10,365,000 being allocated across the counties involved.
The top four governing bodies – Special Olympics Ireland (€1.5m), Athletics Ireland (€1.15m), Swim Ireland (€1.1m) and Horse Sport Ireland (€1m) – each received more than €1m in funding, the three main field sports – the FAI, the IRFU, and the GAA – funded via a different investment programme.
“This is not necessarily particularly exciting from the point of view of news stories,” added May. “But there is nobody in Ireland who hasn’t got some involvement in sport some along the way, and this is what keeps these opportunities open for everyone.
“We believe in having a strong and sustainable sector that can really deliver for us and that’s why this investment is so important and getting an increase is really important. It is not just the increase this year that helped the cost of living but the vast amounts of investments the Government have made over the last couple of years has been incredible.”