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Boxing funding cut €200k as review finds Rio failures were down to 'fundamental weaknesses'

Sport Ireland’s 212-page ‘Rio Review’ was published today.

 Paddy Barnes leaves the ring after defeat in Rio.
Paddy Barnes leaves the ring after defeat in Rio.
Image: Dan Sheridan

THE IRISH ATHLETIC Boxing Association’s (AIBA) high performance funding for 2017 has been cut by €200,000 as a review into the Rio Olympics found Ireland’s failures inside the ring was down to ‘fundamental weaknesses.’

Sport Ireland’s ‘Rio Review’, which was today published in Dublin, says the boxing team’s performance at the 2016 Games was not ‘a blip in an otherwise outstanding success story’ but the result of ‘underlying failings in the high performance programme.’

Despite bringing the largest-ever, and arguably strongest, team of eight boxers to Rio, Ireland returned home with no medals and, consequently, failed to achieve their target of three to four podium finishes.

The 212-page review on Ireland’s Olympic and Paralympic campaigns also says blaming the departure of head coach Billy Walsh, questionable judging decisions and a positive drugs test only masks ‘the real root causes.’

It says Irish boxing is ‘potentially at a crossroads’, and the damning findings of the review comes on the same day Sport Ireland revealed its funding allocation for the next 12 months.

The IABA has seen its high performance funding cut from €900,000 to €700,000, with Sport Ireland providing over €20m for National Governing Bodies and athletes, a figure which is in line with 2016 figures.

Michael Conlan following his defeat to Vladimir Nikitin

“There is no question that the loss of the Head Coach to the programme was a major
blow and was, in our opinion, a factor in the subsequent outcome in Rio,” the review reads.

“However, the fault lines in the programme were present well before his departure. Also, at least one of the Irish boxers was defeated, in the view of most neutral observers, in a bizarre judging verdict. Again to allow this become part of the narrative distracts from the core reasons.”

The ‘Rio Review’ identifies the following areas that need to be addressed in Ireland’s high performance boxing programme:

  • The absence of a dedicated High Performance Director since the departure of Gary Keegan in 2008.
  • An over stretching of head coaches expected to perform dual roles of coaching and leading the programme.
  • A lack of autonomy for decision making within the High Performance Programme.
  • The slippage of boxer discipline and a commitment to the culture of high performance within the programme.
  • The maintenance of accurate records of key boxer data within the programme.
  • The need to expedite the move into state-of-the-art facilities in Abbottstown.
  • Access to high-quality, well co-ordinated support service providers challenged to continually improve in the service of the boxers.
  • A focus on developing more high performance coaches throughout the system and the introduction of past HP athletes into coaching roles.
  • Embracing the changed landscape of boxing especially with the emergence of WSB franchises.

“We welcome the publication today of the detail of the 2017 investment programme for Irish athletes and the review of the Rio Olympics by Sport Ireland,” said Darren O’Neill, OCI Executive Committee.

“It’s vital that Sport Ireland works with the OCI and others to put a powerful strategy in place for High Performance athletes. The OCI has a key role to play in helping athletes on this journey through scholarships, grants, coaching, mentoring and other supports. We will redouble our efforts in this area and work closely with our member federations to further develop Irish Olympic sport.

“The OCI itself has come through a tumultuous year in 2016. The new OCI Executive Committee is determined to address the issues before it and will work in partnership with various bodies to this end.”

– First published 15.41

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