CEO Address Re Convention 2017
I would like to thank you for your input and contribution to the National Convention held last Sunday the 8th of October in the National Stadium.
As CEO of the IABA and as a lifelong member of the boxing community, I am continually impressed by the work done by so many for our sport in the clubs right around the country. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your contribution and take the opportunity to note the dedication and commitment to Irish boxing. Thank you.
The last 12 months have been a difficult time for our sport. However, despite the many challenges some of which I will touch on later there have also been a lot of positives. I will start with those.
First has been the performance of many of our boxers in the ring. Joe Ward’s silver medal at the recent World Championships was a highlight not to mention his gold at the Europeans. At the end of last year, Christina Desmond ended 2016 on a high with a bronze medal at the European Championships, while both our men’s European and women’s EU teams finished in the top 4 in the medals table.
This represents a great start for our new High Performance team under the stewardship of Performance Director, Bernard Dunne. Another welcome boost to our High Performance was our retention of Zaur Anita as Head Coach despite intense competition for his services from other countries. The High Performance Unit have also moved to the multi-million dedicated training facility at the Sport Ireland Institute
The move has been well received by the boxers who are particularly pleased by the close proximity to sport science supports not to mention other Olympic Sport athletes. I can confirm that in the last year €150,000 in direct carding and Athlete development fund support has been allocated to our boxers in the High Performance Programme and we would anticipate given recent performances that this figure will increase next year.
In addition to funding we are also looking to improve the personal development opportunities available to all our boxers. Being based at the Institute is helpful in this regard and we continue to work closely with their athlete services team. I understand that this area is also a key focus for the Olympic Council of Ireland over the next few years and is to be welcomed.
The appointment of a Performance Director was one of the key requirements of the Sport Ireland review of Team Ireland’s performance at the Rio Olympic Games. All of the recommendations in that report were included our Strategic Plan 2017 – 2020 which was drawn up following consultation with all the members and published last December. We are currently working on delivering the actions outlined in that plan.
We are also making progress on our coach development programme and are looking to recruit additional coaches regionally and nationally with a view to providing them with the opportunity to work in the High Performance Unit alongside the elite boxing teams. The hope being that these coaches can then return to their regions and clubs with a much more extensive knowledge. We hope that this will be of assistance to the clubs both in terms of attracting more members and improving the prospects of the many talented boxers at your clubs.
We have also invested a technology system which will allow for better tracking of affiliations and allow for improved communication with you the members. The hope is that this system once fully installed will allow us service the needs of you the members and your clubs better as well as reduce the current labour intensive affiliation process.
We are now running a best in class Child Protection/ Safeguarding system led by David Britton. We are one of the few sports with a full time person in this position. It is hugely important that we are best in class when it comes to child protection given the number of young people that we are fortunate enough to have in the sport. Our funding is also dependent on it and any interference with the system cannot and will not be tolerated.
The appointment of Dave McCartney as Stadium Manager has positively impacted on the number of bookings at the stadium which has generated some additional revenue. We have also been successful in securing an arena liquour licence which greatly influences the nature and number of events we can attract in what is a very competitive marketplace.
The reality is too that our sport operates in a competitive marketplace. We are used to that in terms of being in the ring and have had significant success in that arena over the years around the world. However, closer to home we are one of over 70 sports competing for what remains limited Government funding or investment for sport.
Rio was a challenging Olympics for boxing and indeed, the process around Michael O’Reilly’s positive doping test before the Games is still not concluded and therefore, I am not in a position to comment on it. Sometimes though the darkest point is just before the dawn and these challenges have also presented an opportunity for some self-examination.
If we are to be seen as fit for purpose and a modern sporting organisation, we do have to change but change does not mean discarding all that has gone before but instead trying to build on all that is great about Irish Boxing and evolving the way we do things so that they stand up to the increasing regulatory requirements and expectations placed on modern sporting organisations.
The rule-book is an example of this. We have been advised by our solicitors, by independent sports consultants and indeed, by Sport Ireland and the Minister that they do not regard our old rule book as fit for purpose. Without an organisation whose rules are seen as compliant with the best standards of corporate governance not only do we place our funding at risk, capital grants to your clubs at risk but also any potential of future sponsorship or philanthropic funding.
I am fully aware that change is difficult but this is evolution rather than revolution. It is necessary to ensure that Irish Boxing builds on its incredible heritage and status as Ireland’s most successful Olympic Sport and maintains its place at the heart of Irish Sport. It is for this reason that we held roadshows right around the country to try and explain the changes being made to the rule book and why they are necessary.
If we are to secure the future of our great sport, we are all going to have to work together. Just like a boxer can’t take to the ring and hope for success without the right coaching, training, diet and conditioning we too need to have all elements of our sport pulling together to ensure its future success.
It has been a difficult time but there are so many good things happening and a lot of good will for our sport. Given that all that has been done in the last 12 months, imagine what could be achieved if all of our time and the resources of the IABA could be invested in you the members, the success of your clubs and your boxers instead of attempting to deal with in-fighting amongst ourselves. In this regard, I fully endorse the sentiments of our former President, Pat Ryan, in his address where he stated:
“It is crucial that we as an organisation put an end to acrimony and come together as a united organisation.”
This organisation must adapt, it must modernise, it must show respect to all and promote our Values.
If we all decide after Sunday’s convention to action those sentiments. I have no doubt that in the future the 2017 convention will be seen as a new dawn for Irish boxing. No one person can do this on their own but together we can secure the future of our sport and the future success of our athletes.
As a final note, I want to thank all of those who took part in elections at all levels this year within the IABA. We couldn’t run boxing without you the members and it takes both bravery and courage to stand for election not to mention commitment. Thank you. I look forward to working with our new President Dominic O’Rourke and all those who emerged successful and hope that together we can give you the members the necessary leadership to safeguard the future development of this great sport in Ireland.
Chief Executive Officer