On Monday SportsNewsIreland brought you the news that the Northern Ireland Assembly had voted in favour the establishment of a Northern Ireland Amateur Boxing association, which would alter the current set up whereby all amateur boxers in the country compete for Ireland in the Olympics under the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA).
The vote followed earlier claims from Sandy Row, a predominantly Protestant club, that members of the club were subject to ‘chronic sectarianism’ while boxing in nationalist clubs. Sandy Row is NOT a member of the I.A.B.A and has not been in the last three years hence is ineligible for funding. The club is said to be currently operating as a fitness club. On Tuesday night there followed a BBC Northern Ireland ‘ Spotlight’ Documentary on the subject of sectarianism in Northern Ireland sports though no new allegations came forward regarding boxing which concentrated on the original Sandy Row claims.
So how has the IABA reacted to the BBC programme and what do they now propose?
Irish Amateur Boxing Association statement re BBC Spotlight Programme.
“The Irish Amateur Boxing Association is a community, non-political, non-sectarian all-island body. We are saddened at the recent media coverage concerning the Sandy Row Boxing Club. We have long enjoyed a reputation as a sport that has successfully extended the hand of friendship, and sporting rivalries across political, social, national and religious boundaries. The IABA has maintained a proud tradition of supporting boxers across the island of Ireland. There is a long list of great boxers from all parts of the island who have gone on to represent their country at international level. For the vast majority of these athletes, the issue of nationality or religion has never been of great significance. In fact, the first all-female fight in this country included a boxer from the Sandy Row area. In truth, funding distribution of grants to clubs has been weighted slightly in favour of non-nationalist areas as was pointed out on the Spotlight programme.
We have made a number of efforts to achieve a resolution and address the concerns of Sandy Row Boxing Club. Regrettably this did not occur. It should be appreciated that the Board of the IABA like all organisations is governed by rules, regulations and procedures. Consequently, any Boxing Club affiliating must recognise and adhere to the Association’s rules. We also accept that we cannot ignore the responsibilities that arise with representing boxers who may reside in Ireland but who may regard their primary national allegiances beyond the island of Ireland. The IABA recognises that the Good Friday agreement gives those who are living in Northern Ireland the right to declare their nationality as Irish, British or both. This unique right sets those from the North of Ireland apart from anywhere else in the world. This can create headaches for those charged with administering sport and determining funding for bodies. However, these problems are not insurmountable in the opinion of the Board of the IABA.
The desire of the IABA is that the Sandy Row Boxing Club affiliate. Since its inception in 1911 the IABA has had a proud history of tolerance and inclusivity. It is now our responsibility to work with Sport NI to find a positive way of moving forward on this matter that in the longer term will serve to strengthen and consolidate the sport across the island as a whole”.