BallinEurope can exclusively reveal that Basketball Ireland is to re-start its national teams in 2015 after a five year absence.
Speaking to BiE, Bernard O’Byrne, chief executive of Basketball Ireland, said the men’s senior team would return to international play next year with plans in place to re-start the women’s programme. The sport’s governing body was forced to disband the teams in 2010 due to financial concerns
“Withdrawing our international teams left us in a vacuum. Over the past two years we have been building that back up,” said O’Byrne. “In any sport, the thing that sells it is the green shirt, it’s playing for Ireland. With FIBA restructuring World Cup qualification, it will bring top class teams here to Ireland.”
The news comes on the back of Basketball Ireland winning the rights to host the general assembly of FIBA Europe, the sport’s equivalent of UEFA, in 2016. The event will be have 200 delegates from FIBA’s 51 members in Europe and the global body.
“It’s important that Basketball Ireland rebuilds credibility both nationally and internationally. We’ve made positive steps with the government here,” said O’Byrne. “The minister, Michael Ring, and Bord Failte were totally on board with the bid. I think it was really significant that we got the minister to attend the national finals this year.”
O’Byrne said the body would bid to host a European underage championship in either 2017 or 2018. “We are looking at either the under 16 or under 18 championships. We will decide which one to pitch for after discussing it with our coaches and technical people,” said O’Byrne. “We fortunate that we have some great talent coming through at present.”
Last year Basketball Ireland was fined €127,000 by the Sports Council for mis-use of a capital grant. The body was also barred from applying for capital grants for five years. O’Byrne said Basketball Ireland will now appeal the ban from applying for grants in order to carry out refurbishments to the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght, Dublin.
“We had to take that on the chin. We are revisiting the five year ban, we think that is quite excessive and harsh on an organisation with limited resources. We are 18 months into that ban now and we are getting ready to launch that appeal,” he said.
“I’m confident we can also receive some capital support from FIBA Europe. The new president, Turgay Demirel, has said that for the organisation to get stronger all of the federations have to grow. I believe we can go to him with a plan, a vision for our future.”
O’Byrne also said the national body is ahead of schedule in its repayments of a €1.4 million debt. The 7 year repayment process has been under way for 4 years and he said he was confident Basketball Ireland would complete payment ahead of time, freeing up €200,000 per year.