Comment: IABA civil war undermines Dunne’s role

Sport Ireland’s ultimatum on Rio Review brings high performance issue to a head

IABA high performance director Bernard Dunne. Photograph:   Ryan Byrne/Inpho

IABA high performance director Bernard Dunne. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

For a boxer, whose career brought him 13 Irish amateur championships and the WBA Super Bantamweight world title in 2009, it must have come as a surprise to Bernard Dunne that he didn’t measure up to the Central Council of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA).

Dunne has found himself in the middle of a proxy war in a federation where, absurdly, there are now two rule books being proposed and two people who call themselves chairman of the board, Dublin barrister Joe Christle and Waterford’s David O’Brien.

Rejected by the council as team manager for the European Amateur Championships in nine days’ time, Dunne’s appointment to the position Billy Walsh once filled, High Performance Director, was always going to be predictably difficult.

Little did anyone believe that less than two months after Dunne taking over, boxing officials along with Sport Ireland (SI) chief executive John Treacy, would be summoned by junior Minister for Sport Patrick O’Donovan to explain what was going on.

The meeting with the minister, who has expressed an interest in boxing, took place on Tuesday.

Dunne was appointed in April. In an interview at the time he was asked if he picked the Irish team and had the final say as Central Council always held that privilege, a bone of contention for Walsh.

 “It will be a collaborative effort . . . again there is a draft rule book. I like a selection process within the High Performance unit,” said Dunne.

But it was Dunne himself who was rejected by the council for Munster’s Gerry O’Mahony, a more profoundly contentious decision than rejecting a boxer he had selected.

The decision was a blow struck for the alternative board and the alternative rule book and Dunne became collateral damage. As Treacy pointed out in a letter written to the IABA on May 29th, the move – and that is what it is in a divided organisation – could jeopardise their funding.

The decision, says Treacy, repudiates the solid agreement SI had with the IABA in the Rio Review, which followed the Olympics. The Rio Review was highly critical of the IABA after the Walsh debacle, the performance failure and the positive drugs test of Michael O’Reilly but forged a way forward and promised modernisation of the organisation.

In his letter to IABA chief executive Fergal Carruth, Treacy writes: “The IABA is faced with a crisis arising from recommendations of the Performance Director not being accepted by the Central Council.

“This undermines the IABA HP [High Performance] Programme and the authority of the new Director [Dunne]\. Furthermore the actions of the Central Council are contrary to the Rio Review (and indeed the London 2012 debrief).

“The IABA is committed to implementing all of the recommendations of the Rio review, so, in turn, requires the new rule book to be operational in 2017.

“Sport Ireland would like to see the new Rule Book in place by June 30 2017. Can you please provide Sport Ireland with an assurance that this timeline will be met.”

One of the new rule books, it is believed, will allow central council select team managers and have the final say in selections. The other rule book won’t allow that. If the council agreed to the rules that removed those powers, it would be the turkeys voting for Christmas. They would be voting themselves out of power over elite boxing.

But it is Dunne who will be held accountable for the team performance, not Central Council, who are unaccountable. It will be Dunne whose head is on the block if boxers do not qualify from Europe into the World Championships and into the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

What has been shown in Rio is that failure in governance – and in this the IABA are worthy of a doctoral thesis – failure in the ring soon follows. It is up to the IABA to contain its civil war and honour agreements set out in the Rio Review.

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