It was with heavy heart that I informed the board some weeks ago of my intention to stand down from the position of CEO of the IABA, one which I have been proud to hold for eight and a half years.
My statement released that week covered my decision in more detail, but I would also point out that, in moving on after over eight years, I would also be abiding by the spirit of the rule changes introduced by members in 2019, in relation to term limits for board and council members. I felt then, and continue to feel, that these term limits are vital for the future proofing of our sport. They ensure leaders in all areas of boxing can achieve their term goals, while paving the way for even more progress.
I will forever be grateful for having had the opportunity and the privilege of leading our great sport, and I will truly miss working alongside some of the most committed and motivated people I have ever met, both volunteers and staff.
The sport of boxing in Ireland has grown year on year since I joined in 2013 and together, we have professionalised many aspects of the company. We have delivered a financial surplus every year, in a turbulent period in Ireland and globally, which included recession and the Covid 19 pandemic. As I step down, our sport has evolved to one which holds a strong financial position.
The executive staff have built excellent relationships throughout the Irish sporting landscape with, amongst others, Sport Ireland, Sport NI, the Olympic Federation of Ireland, the Irish Institute of Sport, local councils, LSPs & other NGBs. These relationships will serve this organisation very well into the future.
In the ring, amongst many other successes, we saw Michael Conlan becoming our first and, to date, only male World Champion. We witnessed the baton change between Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington, cementing Ireland’s domination of the Women’s 60kg division, culminating in Kellie’s inspiring gold medal performance at last year’s Olympic Games. Irish Boxing will never forget the crowning of two world champions, Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke within 20 minutes of each other at the World Championships in Istanbul, along with and many more fantastic achievements.
In order for the IABA to truly reach its potential, we must translate our world-renowned excellence in the ring to the highest levels of Governance. This is vital in ensuing that our clubs can continue to benefit from, amongst other advantages, the huge Capital investment into our clubs by Government. This support has seen the vast majority of our clubs receiving millions in facility improvements over the last 10 years and increased levels of funding that has become available through LSPs, local councils and with capital grant schemes.
Our clubs have also benefited from equipment grants, direct financial assistance through the pandemic and their affiliations and insurance being almost completely covered over the last three years.
It will be no surprise to you for me to say how disappointed I was at our EGM in Roscommon to see the motion to hold general meetings of the IABA anywhere on the Island of Ireland being rejected by 35 clubs, out of 103 which voted on the motion.
I am delighted that has since been rectified and the hurt that this has caused can hopefully be healed or at least, begin to heal, as soon as possible.
I have reported to three chairmen in my time as CEO and learned a huge amount from these extremely dedicated and talented people. The sport of boxing in Ireland owes these men, the late Dr John Lynch, Joe Christle and Ciaran Kirwan, a great deal of gratitude. Furthermore, our sport has been blessed to have several other extremely talented board members during this time. I have served alongside 4 presidents – Tommy, Pat, Dominic and now Gerry. I’ve also worked alongside many different members of Central Council, whom I would also like to thank and acknowledge for their dedication and commitment to our sport.
I would like to thank the staff of the company, both present and past, that have been an absolute pleasure to work alongside. They have helped, enormously, in building the organisation into the number one Irish Olympic sport.
There is an abundance of talent and resources within our staff and Volunteers, and I wish all every success in your endeavors in the coming years. I wholeheartedly hope that the relationship between staff and volunteers within the sport can grow and deepen as this, I believe, will be key to boxing’s flourishing, at all levels of our sport, into the future.
To you, the members, I thank you for the opportunity to have led this organisation and can honestly report to you that I have done all in my power throughout these years to always act in the best interest of Irish boxing, a sport which like you, I also love.
I am very grateful to have served as Boxer, Club Coach, Club Secretary, Club Chairman, IABA Coach Tutor, Company Secretary and CEO and can safely tell you all there has never been a dull moment…though I must admit many times, I wished there were…
I am now looking forward to going back to my club, Drimnagh (if they will have me!) and, as a volunteer get back to the part of the sport which I’ve always loved most, being close to the ring and helping youngsters achieve their dreams.
I have concerns, as alluded to earlier, for our sport at a global level, moving forward. I believe my concerns are warranted, but these difficulties are not insurmountable. Boxing is a foundational sport of the modern Olympic Games, and it is vital that boxing remains a central part of the Olympic family. Happily, that appears secured for the 2024 games, as the IOC will again operationalize their Boxing Task Force to run boxing at Roland Garros, in Paris. However, 2028 participation will require strong action to ensure that boxing is re-instated in the LA Games. As stated earlier, is not an insurmountable goal but it will take a lot of work. Irish boxing must continue to agitate for change in our world body to deliver on that objective. We have been doing this over many years by aligning with like-minded nations and by joining, at a very early stage, the Common Cause Alliance – I would like to applaud Dominic and Ciaran for having the courage to help drive this, and Gerry, more recently, for adding his support. I sincerely hope this work continues.
On a national level, we remain the number one Olympic sport and facts speak for themselves. The IABA is older than the Irish State. Generations of coaches have handed down their skills, their values, and the sweet science to tens of thousands of boxers. This is a living legacy. This inherited experience and expertise thrives throughout our club network, so it is unsurprising that our vast store of talent flows into the HPU from every part of the island of Ireland This tradition must be further supported.
Before becoming a company in 2008, the IABA had one World Champion and achieved 9 Olympic medals in its almost one hundred years, including one Gold Medal, (shout out to my big brother Michael!)
Since becoming a company just 14 years ago, the IABA now has 5 World champions, and has won a further 9 Olympic medals, including two more Gold by Katie and Kellie. This clearly shows a positive trend for this organisation that we are all a part of… and that trend shows we have been going in the right direction.
We’ve also experienced unprecedented growth in that time – 100 new clubs have opened, 10,000 people have taken up boxing and our membership among women and girls has grown from virtually nil to 25%. This mini explosion is down to each and every club’s community connections, and their standing n their towns, villages and cities. These wonderful figures tell only part of the story. Boxing, despite its profile, remains a minority sport. Growth in the number of clubs and boxers since 2008 shows the massive untapped potential for new clubs, for more boxers. It is for this reason we must try to work together and utilize our resources to their optimal, as much as possible.
All of us currently involved in Boxing, will inevitably all move on….as did our predecessors who formed and kept the IABA alive since 1911. But, I sincerely hope that when we do, our legacy can be to have helped develop our sport into one that is an exemplar of volunteers and staff working together to continue the growth of Boxing where it is truly recognised for the fantastic work it does within the communities it operates in the length and breadth of this country, and it is spoken about with pride and reverence by Irish people everywhere.
I will be standing down from my role as CEO September 2nd but I will continue to be a proud part of this great organisation through my club. I look forward to assisting and supporting Irish Boxing wherever I can.
To finish, let me say to you all thank you for the work you put into this sport and thank you all for the Privilege and Distinction of being your CEO over the last number of years, it has been an absolute honour.