Friday 18 October 2019

Walsh fights back over IABA cash claims

Billy Walsh pictured at Dublin Airport last week, leaving to take up a coaching position in the United States.
Billy Walsh pictured at Dublin Airport last week, leaving to take up a coaching position in the United States.

By david looby

Former Irish amateur boxing head coach, Wexford man Billy Walsh, has contradicted the Irish Amateur Boxing Association's (IABA) account of their failed contract negotiations in which they claim he left the Irish coaching team for financial reasons.

Walsh insists he resigned last week because he 'could not work for someone who clearly did not want me' rather than the financial benefits of coaching in America.

The fallout from the boxing association's disastrous handling of the contract negotiations has culminated in calls for a major review of the organisation after it emerged that it withdrew a €120,000 pay offer to the Wexford man, precipitating his move to American boxing.

In a statement released on Saturday from America, Walsh said he provisionally agreed the terms of a new contract with the IABA on September 14, which would involve him resigning from his permanent position and taking up a new fixed term contract. This would involve the payment of a severance payment. The IABA reneged on the deal leading him to request 60 changes to the contract. On October 8 he received their offer, which he described as 'unworkable',

He accused the IABA of deliberately structuring the proposed contract with non-financial conditions they knew he would never accept, of refusing to adjust these terms, and of only entering salary negotiations in the first place due to political pressure.

'I believe they did not want me to stay. I was left with no alternative but to resign. I could not work for someone who clearly did not want me, who was going out of their way to undermine my position and who wanted me to work under terms that were simply unworkable.'

Walsh said he felt compelled to issue his statement 'due to the misinformation that has been peddled in the last couple of days'.

Describing the IABA's claims as an unfair portrayal of what happened in the past eight month, he said: 'The IABA has clearly implied that I have left because of money and that a contract was agreed on September 14. This is simply incorrect. Of course I wanted better financial terms. However, it was the non-financial and practical working terms that were the deciding factor in my decision to resign.'

He said the new fixed term contract gave him very few legal protections and prevented him from having any contact with the Irish Sport Council (ISC) or the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) for example.

'These are key stakeholders that I need to deal with on a regular basis...I was prevented from having contact with the ISC or OCI without prior written permission of the CEO. This stipulation also included any contact with the media.'

Walsh left for America on Thursday morning to take up a role with the US Olympic Committee (USOC) coaching their top women boxers, with a view to becoming head coach of the men's American boxing team.

The IABA has received scathing criticism from numerous sporting organisations, politicians, top Irish boxers and sportspeople, among others, in the wake of their decision not to negotiate a deal with Walsh, who is Ireland's most successful boxing coach ever.

Irish Sports Council's John Treacy led calls for a 'cultural change' within the IABA in the wake of the controversy.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Treacy said: 'It's a matter of grave concern to ourselves that they hadn't shown us the respect to tell us officially that Billy has resigned, even though we all know. Even up to last week, we were told a deal was done. And a deal wasn't done.'

A funding review of the IABA is planned, Mr Treacy said. Meanwhile Irish Sporting Council chairman Kieran Mulvey also threatened to pull funding to the IABA.

'We've written to the IABA today with a series of questions around this Billy Walsh issue and we'll expect them to respond to us by next week. We will probably also carry out a corporate governance review,' he said, but sports minister Michael Ring said funding will not be cut. IABA management are due to appear the Committee for Transport and Communications on Wednesday.

On Friday a national newspaper revealed how the IABA reneged on a six-part agreement with the Sports Council over Walsh's employment terms. The Memorandum of Agreement between the two bodies was drawn up in an attempt to see off the offer from USOC, which had been made six months previously. The offer from America is believed to be worth more than double that amount with provisions for a pension, health insurance and flights back to Ireland included. However, Walsh was happy to sign up to what had been agreed, particularly since a clause in the document specifically referred to him leading the High Performance Unit (HPU) of the IABA. Subsequently, the IABA came back to the Sports Council and said it had chosen not to bring the agreement to board level. The total agreement meant a remuneration package for Walsh of €120,000 in 2015, including bonuses.

But the IABA changed their minds.

On Friday the IABA claimed that it did everything 'within reason' to retain the services of Walsh as Irish boxing head coach going forward to the Olympics and beyond.

IABA chairman Joe Christle claimed the organisation was unaware of the reasoning that led to Walsh resigning. He said that contractual terms had been agreed, but negotiations between the two parties had subsequently broken down. The IABA has appointed Zaur Antia as head coach on an interim basis.

Wexford People

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