IABA must reform or face ‘immediate and severe financial sanctions’ from government

Updated 5 minutes ago

THE IRISH ATHLETIC Boxing Association (IABA) will face “immediate and severe financial sanctions” if it doesn’t reform in line with recommendations put forward in a recently sanctioned independent report on its governance, sports minister Jack Chambers has said.

One of those recommendations is that the IABA adopt a new board structure in which half of its 12 board members would be independent. 

This evening, the IABA released a statement in response to Minister Chambers’ comments, outlining that the organisation is “acutely aware of the need for reform” within the organisation. 

Following Bernard Dunne’s resignation from his position as IABA High Performance director earlier this month, and after years of internal political battles which also led to the departure of Dunne’s predecessor Billy Walsh in 2015, Minister Chambers insisted that members of a board or a council should have no say in international team selection and that Ireland has “a high performance strategy which we have approved as a government which puts directors and units at the heart of every sporting organisation.”

Dunne’s resignation was the culmination of an unsigned ‘SWOT’ (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis document which heavily criticised his performance in the role of HPU director and was circulated at board level prior to the Tokyo Olympics. He consequently lodged a formal complaint against two volunteers.

Minister Chambers described the document as “a disgrace” and called upon IABA delegates to use their June EGM as an opportunity to accept 64 recommendations from the independent governance report, therefore limiting the power of those who scripted the document and those who supported it.

Minister Chambers also gave the IABA a three-month deadline to produce an “implementation plan” or face being cut off from state funding.

In a statement issued this evening, the IABA committed to “publishing an implementation plan within the timescale outlined by the Minister”, while describing the document as a “malicious and appalling attack on a member of staff.”

“We can’t and will not be funding behaviour like this and governance disfunction,” Minister Chambers told Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio One. “I want to see boxing fully embrace and support the recommendations in the review.

“They will have to produce an implementation plan within three months at the latest.

“The anonymous and malicious document right before the Olympics undermining Bernard Dunne and the High Performance Unit was frankly a disgrace. [Its authors and supporters] need to be isolated and removed from running boxing.

“We have a high performance strategy which we have approved as a government which puts directors and units at the heart of every sporting organisation. That applies to boxing.

“I absolutely share the concerns of Billy Walsh and Bernard Dunne and that is why I am saying as a bottom line there will have to be a full implementation of the recommendations as outlined.”

Minister Chambers added that “if the IABA is serious after their EGM about implementing the recommendations, I would love to see the door open for Bernard Dunne to return.”

He also confirmed that Sport Ireland would oversee the implementation of these recommendations to ensure that they would not be adopted merely temporarily.

Failure to adopt these recommendations, Chambers reiterated, could lead to dire consequences for the sport in which this country has achieved the most success on the international stage.

“Those recommendations and timelines around them will have to be agreed with Sport Ireland. They will be monitored monthly by Sport Ireland. I want to make it clear we won’t be seeing this continuity of conflict and internal battles.

“We cannot have individuals on a board or council deciding who is being selected on a particular team.

“Bringing in 12 directors with half of them independent on the board, you’ll see very significant change happening if the recommendations are implemented.

Boxing and members of boxing have a clear choice if they want to embrace reform. If they don’t embrace it in the timelines outlined, it will have an impact on their core funding as organisation, including for capital and equipment.

“What is happening now is we’re discussing individuals who have a malicious intent within the organisation trying to undermine the likes of Bernard Dunne and Billy Walsh in the past.

They need to be isolated and removed from the core running of boxing. It’s undermining the athletes, degrading the grassroots and could lead to losing future potential.


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“I am determined as minister to show there will be full consequences if they do not implement the recommendations and that’s the minimum from me.”

The IABA have since issued a statement in response to the comments.

“The IABA is acutely aware of the need for reform in the volunteer structures of the association,” the statement reads.

The Minister’s comments today will serve to focus minds on the gravity of the choice facing Irish boxing – to evolve into an association with the highest standards of governance, or to reject reform and face damaging constraints on our sport. The scale of reform recommended in the report is profound and impacts virtually all areas of operation of the volunteer structures of the association.

“The governance report was shared with all boxing clubs, county boards and provincial units on 10 May, in preparation for our forthcoming EGM. In that sharing, the IABA has placed particular, but not exclusive, emphasis on the reform of the structure of the association’s board, and its expansion to include additional independent members, from which the implementation of all other reforms will flow.

“This matter will be put before members at the EGM and members will be asked to initially support the changes within the Teneo Governance review of IABA 2022 in relation to the board. That is, that all recommendations that are set out in the review on the constitution of the board of IABA are accepted.

If the recommendations are adopted by the members at the EGM, the IABA will engage, fully, with all monitoring and change management structures applied by Sport Ireland. IABA also commits to publishing an implementation plan within the timescale outlined by the Minister today.

“IABA’s ability to implement the required reforms is contingent upon a democratic ballot of boxing clubs and their members. IABA is already aware of staunch opposition among some long-standing volunteer members to the primary recommendations proposed in the review. The IABA hopes that the minister’s comments today on the immediacy and severity of financial sanctions will give those members pause and motivate them to think on what is in the best interests of the sport they love.

“The IABA notes the Minister’s comments on the resignation of Bernard Dunne as High Performance Director. IABA asked Bernard to reconsider his resignation, a request reiterated at last Monday’s board meeting. IABA considers the anonymous document disseminated in February of 2021 to be a malicious and appalling attack on a member of staff.”

Updated at 6.52pm to include IABA statement.

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