Commenting on the report of the Independent Working Group Examining Boxing in Ulster which was published today TUV leader Jim Allister said:
“While I fundamentally disagree with the contention of the Report that there is no need for a separate Northern Ireland Boxing Federation there is much in the report which I welcome. It is also clear that an objective analysis of the facts has concluded that there was substance to the complaints made by Sandy Row Boxing Club.
- Found that there were a “number of chill factors that currently create anxiety within the sport” which need to be “eliminated to ensure a high level of inclusivity on bothsides of the community”;
- “Identified the need for the IABA to strategically review its organisational structure and governance procedures to ensure that issues that arise are robustly dealt with” – a key complaint by SRABC for many years;
- Agrees “that the nationality issue in the Olympics is a nettle that needs to be grasped”, not just when it comes to boxing but also in relation to other sports;
- Finds that “The Irish Amateur Boxing Association, along with other sports, should consider what creative ways could be found to enable elite representation of individual Ulster boxers in either Team GB or Ireland teams at the Olympics” and in relation to boxing recommends that progress on the national representation issue be assessed after 12 months;
- “Heard a number of serious claims of direct intimidation at specific events on both sides of the community. The representatives of amateur boxing acknowledged these incidents and their seriousness and agreed that action should be taken”;
- “Also heard considerable anecdotal evidence that low level sectarian abuse and a culture of ‘keeping your head down’ over these issues continues to exist in boxing”;
- Took the “strong view” that Clubs “are directly responsible for the management of incidents of sectarianism when and where they occur in connection to boxing. This includes the management of supporters and behaviour at bouts. Institutionalised sectarianism often takes place because the majority group fails to act to protect the minority on the basis of a poor understanding of the meaning of these events and their effect on those on the receiving end. Acting and being seen to act as well as being seen to take responsibility are important”;
- “Recognised that the absence of clear grievance protocols and procedures for the imposition of penalties in the case of the incidents that were perpetrated against Sandy Row contributed to the escalation of the current dispute and seriously exacerbated the sense of alienation in the Sandy Row club” and
- Recommends a “review of existing practice in this regard to ensure that a process for complaint and investigation is in place”.
“Sandy Row have lifted the lid on a serious problem within Boxing in Northern Ireland and this report which catalogues a series of failures. When Sandy Row bravely put their head above the parapet they were met by cat calls claiming the problems they highlighted did not exist. This report proves they do. Those who have dismissed the claims of SRABC within the boxing fraternity owe them an apology – as does the Minister who devised criteria for funding which deliberately excluded Sandy Row.
“It should act as a catalyst for change in Boxing and indeed other sports in Northern Ireland where people are denied the right to represent the United Kingdom on the international stage.”