In August 2012, the Sandy Row ABC published a dossier it called ‘a decade of sectarian and racial abuse’ before the club was suspended from the Irish Amateur Boxing Association in 2010.
The 57-page report documented several incidents of “sectarian abuse” at some clubs in north and west Belfast.
Sandy Row club secretary Ian McSorley said his repeated calls for boxers to compete in “politically neutral environments” had been ignored by the boxing authorities.
The club’s dossier describes incidents where a bottle was thrown and the mainly Protestant Sandy Row boxers faced “hostile, sectarian chanting”.
When asked in 2012 to comment on one particular report of abuse outlined in the dossier, a spokesman for the PSNI confirmed they had investigated the incident as a “hate crime”.
The PSNI spokesman said; “Police can confirm they received a report of boxers participating in a boxing tournament in North Queen Street area of Belfast on 11th February, 2010 being subjected to verbal sectarian abuse.”
In November 2012, MLAs in the Assembly voted in favour of setting up a separate Northern Ireland Boxing organisation and in February 2014 Ray Rodgers, president of Golden Gloves of America, said he was fully behind the club’s desire to break away from the IABA.
Support for breakaway body not universal
The Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) has said it is opposed to any change in the current set-up of amateur boxing in Ireland.
In a statement it said: “As a result of concerns by Sandy Row ABC, the IABA commissioned an independent report into boxing in Ulster.
“The report included the opportunity for all key stakeholders to contribute and resulted in a number of recommendations which the IABA has accepted and are progressing.
“The report also made it very clear that, in its independent opinion, the formation of a Northern Ireland governing body for amateur boxing would be divisive to the sport.
“The IABA have not been informed by any of its members of any such desire to set up a separate body for NI and would ask all clubs to continue to contribute towards the delivery of the recommendations in the independent report.”
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin is among those who do not support the creation of a separate body.
The Sinn Fein minister has repeatedly rejected calls by the Sandy Row club, and various unionist politicians, that clubs not affiliated to the IABA should be funded by Sport NI.
Ms Ni Chuilin welcomed the independent report into boxing in the Province, and said it was important to “acknowledge the good work which goes on throughout the sport” of boxing.
She said the investigation into Sandy Row’s complaints dealt with “a small minority of cases, based on factors which originate outside the sport, and usually prompted by those with no interest in boxing”.
Ms Ni Chuilin also said at the time: “We are disappointed with the allegations made against the IABA. We are conducting a thorough investigation into them – when the investigations are complete we are open to holding discussions with the Sandy Row Boxing Club in order to resolve any grievances they may have and to reach a common solution which is mutually beneficial to all clubs attached to the IABA.”
Following Thursday’s meeting with the local boxing clubs’ representatives, Sport NI said it would consider a new document presented by the delegation “in the coming days”.
A Sport NI spokeswoman said: “A number of items were discussed, including the process for a body to become formally recognised as a Governing Body of Sport, and SNI’s commitment to ensuring that athletes can express their Britishness or Irishness and represent their country (Great Britain or Ireland) in their sport, as detailed within the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
“SNI recognises the meeting was constructive in clarifying the complexity of sport in a Northern Ireland context and we look forward to a resolution which recognises the rights of all in Northern Ireland.”