IABA set to break silence on Walsh and come out fighting
Billy Walsh needed permission from CEO to talk to media, according to new details
Irish Sports Council chairman Kieran Mulvey has promised boxer fraternity best financial support possible. Photograph: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus
The Irish Amateur Boxing Association are set to break their silence on Thursday morning on the situation that has led to Billy Walsh leaving boxing’s High Performance Unit and taking up a post in the United States. After a meeting with Minister for Sport Michael Ring on Wednesday, it is believed the IABA intend to come out fighting and strongly defend their handling of the affair.
In doing so, they will look to draw a line and move on, even though it is likely to land them in trouble with the Irish Sports Council. The ISC’s chairman Kieran Mulvey has reiterated his intention to put in place a funding review should the IABA not come up with an explanation for the agreement that was put in writing back in August subsequently failing to go before the board. There is a fear within boxing circles that this could lead to governance of the sport being taken out of the IABA’s hands and its running handed over to the Sports Council.
With growing rancour on both sides, details began to emerge on Wednesday of some of the issues that led to Walsh’s exile. At a Dáil Committee to sign off on Mulvey’s appointment as chairman of Sport Ireland, he revealed that one of the demands from the Irish Amateur Boxing Association was that Walsh get permission from his CEO before engaging with the media.
“In this proposed contract, Billy Walsh was told that he could not engage with the Olympic Council of Ireland, the Irish Sports Council or the media without the written permission of the CEO. Imagine Joe Schmidt being told he had to contact Philip Browne every time he wanted to announce a team. This is unconscionable.
“What was Billy Walsh looking for? I think he was looking for respect. And my god did he deserve it. The second thing he was looking for was authority. Reasonable authority to run the high performance programme without petty bureaucratic interference. I mean, how can you have a situation in Doha where a boxer could win a medal then Billy having to turn to Des Cahill and say, ‘Sorry, I can’t give an interview, I have to get written permission.’
“That exposes a mentality to me. From what I know and understand what was going on, it was constantly to chip away at whatever authority Billy had achieved – and it wasn’t enormous. There was also a feeling sometimes that I get from meeting the IABA that there’s a resentment of the High Performance Unit and of the resources that go into it.”
Mulvey was appearing in front of the Committee on Transport and Communications the morning after going on Prime Time to call on the IABA to find a solution to the farrago within 24 hours or risk a funding review.
“The IABA for all practical purposes is almost totally funded by the State. It is not my intention and it will never be the intention of the board to go hurt the athletes, the boxers, the coaches. All of them can get a guarantee from me here this morning that they will not be touched. They will be given the best financial support that we can do. My concern is that portion of the grant that is given to the IABA for central headquarter administration.
“I am putting that marker down now and I hope I will be supported on this. We will review that for the 2016 funding round until we are assured that everything that is required on transparency and corporate governance is to our satisfaction. It’s not today or yesterday that this arose. It’s not working and it needs to be fixed.
“The IABA didn’t hear anything from me last night that they haven’t heard me say across the table to them. They allowed this to drift. They said they were in negotiations and then legal people from both sides got involved. I just know for a fact that anybody who has dealt with the IABA in these negotiations, be they human resource consultants or legal, have found it the most frustrating experience they’ve ever experienced. And it mirrors my own.
“Do they want him or do they not? And it appears to me that they don’t. To allow this poker game to go to the ultimate. The president of the IABA told the Minister for Sport last weekend that this would be sorted out, it would be alright, that it would be done. And what do we find on Monday morning? It’s not done. It was nothing to do with financials, that was all thrashed out and paid for by the Sports Council. It was all the other indignities that were added.”