Sectarianism in Boxing Needs Addressed
Responding to today’s announcement of a cash injection of £3 million for boxing in Northern Ireland TUV leader Jim Allister said:
“Boxing in Northern Ireland has to address the serious difficulties which members of the Unionist community face when trying to participate in the sport.
“The reality in Northern Ireland is that people from within the Unionist community are discouraged from participating in boxing because of sectarianism and the fact that competitive events are almost always held in Republican areas.
“I know of talented young boxers who have withdrawn from the sport because of the sectarianism which they have encountered at events arranged by the boxing authorities. Sadly despite attempts to address the situation the County Antrim Board has been lax to say the least in addressing the issues.
“Events held in venues like All Saints Boxing Club in Twinbrook, Grosvenor Activity Centre in the Lower Falls area and Saint Kevin’s Hall in the New Lodge have all resulted in sectarian abuse being directed at young Protestant boxers from Sandy Row with no adequate redress coming from boxing authorities.
“Now that boxing in Northern Ireland is to receive this funding it is imperative that fundamental changes take place so that people from all religious and political backgrounds can feel welcome. Sensible suggestions from some of those who have experienced these problems have included neutral venues for championship weigh-ins; neutral club attire during championship events (using the traditional red and blue rather than party political colours) and neutral venues for all boxing authority meetings.
“The Irish Football Association has been very proactive in seeking to address sectarianism in football. It is incumbent upon DCAL and the boxing authorities to see to it that similar changes take place in boxing in Northern Ireland”.
Note to editors
Mr Allister has been pressing DCAL on the issues surrounding amateur boxing by way of written questions which are listed below:
To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, in light of the revelation about coaches operating in boxing clubs without Access NI checks, (i) what action she intends to take; and (ii) for her assessment of the adequacy of the present governance arrangements in amateur boxing.
I am aware of reports in the media about a recent Belfast City Council (BCC) questionnaire suggesting a number of boxing coaches have not been subject to AccessNI checks. This is a matter, in the first instance, for the governing body of boxing, the Ulster Provincial Boxing Council (UPBC). However, through SportNI, which is an arms-length body of my Department, I already have, and will continue to have, a policy of requiring robust and effective child protection and safeguarding policies and procedures from all sports clubs, including boxing clubs, seeking funding. SportNI carries out this work in partnership with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and, through this partnership, clarification is currently being sought on the exact nature of the findings in the BCC questionnaire. My officials have also contacted BCC about this issue and I understand, from this, that the Council is currently working with the boxing clubs concerned to ensure all coaches, that may be expected to work with children and vulnerable people, have completed any requisite Access NI checks.
There are, in my view, considerable weaknesses within the present governance arrangements for amateur boxing in the north of Ireland. In particular, in many areas, the sport currently lacks the capacity to enable it to avail of public funding, on a competitive basis, or to administer it effectively. The sport also needs support to help it address barriers to participation so that anyone who wishes to take part in boxing at any level within the north has the opportunity to do so. In recognition of these problems, my Department is currently developing a Boxing Strategy in order to help the sport address these weaknesses.
Tabled on 02/07/2012 and awaiting answer:
To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure whether the upcoming Boxing Strategy will directly address the factors which are perceived to discourage Protestant and Unionist participation in the sport, including the selection of venues for competitions, such as that experienced by the Sandy Row Boxing Club.
To ask the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, if the present governing body for boxing in Northern Ireland fails to take adequate steps to address sectarian barriers to participation, whether she will take steps to compel governance changes, as was the case with the Irish Football Association.