Basketball Chiefs Angry Over Lack of Government Interest

Sport is competitive and Basketball Ireland has broken out of the collegiate way of working with Government to lay claim to an early engagement with whoever is the new Minister with responsibility for sport after Saturday’s General Election.

In a statement issued at lunchtime yesterday CEO Bernard O’Byrne and the Board of Basketball Ireland said that “The basketball community in Ireland has been following with interest the announcement surrounding another major sports body, which has benefited from a funding agreement in recent days to allow it time and resources to recover from financial difficulties.”

“While we wish those involved in that sport the very best in navigating their way through what will undoubtedly be a difficult few years to come, the Board wishes to express the frustration of many basketball enthusiasts in our 300,000+ strong community, as it would appear that double standards may be at play for sports that fall outside what are considered the popular sports.”

It drew an unfavourable comparison to the financial crisis that hit Basketball at the time of the crash in 2008 when the sport was forced to deal with its own challenges without any Government assistance.

It cancelled its international programmes and made half of its workforce redundant at the time and was excluded from Sports Capital Grant funding for a period of five years.

A levy was placed on all members of Basketball Ireland to dig their own way out, a process which did come through and which has resulted in the sport hosting three European Championship events in Dublin, Cork and Limerick over 2018, 2019 and 2020.

“The Board at Basketball Ireland calls upon all political parties and candidates currently looking for support from the large basketball community around Ireland to commit to meeting with our representatives as soon as a new government is formed, in order to listen to our case for a fresh look at our funding to help us administer and promote our sport to help it progress even further,” continued the statement.

“At our darkest time, a similar agreement to that which was awarded last week would have considerably changed the trajectory of Basketball Ireland, and would have proven to be a lifeline.”

Speaking to Sport for Business O’Byrne, a former CEO of the FAI, told us that they had always had a very good relationship with department officials but that there had been no engagement with Ministers Ross or Griffin in recent years despite repeated invitations and requests for meetings.

Much of Government engagement takes place through Sport Ireland as the funding body and through the Federation of Irish Sport as a lobbying group.

Basketball Ireland withdrew from the latter last year following a decision to go its own way on lobbying.

With a 300,000 active membership and strong bases in Dublin and Cork where party leaders are contesting the election, that lobbying stepped up a gear or three yesterday and the reference to the FAI, without naming them, has delivered significant coverage that will be on the radar of all the politicians.

Whether he who shouts loudest gets to sit down at the table first will become apparent in the coming weeks.  Basketball Ireland clearly felt it was worth a roll of the dice.

The self-help basis of recovery has resulted in an impressive list of achievements including:

  • The re-instating of all international programmes thanks to fantastic support from parents and members across the country, who continue to help part-fund these squads.
  • An estimated 300,000 strong basketball community.
  • The sport has grown by 60% in the past five years and is continuing to flourish year on year.
  • There is almost a 50-50-gender participation split.
  • A clear pathway has been established for the future generation of players with the introduction of our Regional and Provincial Academies, which help to put players from as young as Under 14 on a clear pathway to the elite level of our sport.
  • National Leagues continue to grow year on year, with new clubs joining every season.
  • 860 post-primary schools involved in competitions.
  • The recently released “Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study” showed that participation in basketball at Primary school level has doubled since 2009, and basketball is in the top three of the most participated sports for children of this age.
  • According to that report, basketball also ranked as the number one sport for content covered in PE classes.
  • Today’s Highlights on Sport for Business

    Image Credit: Basketball Ireland

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