In November 2012 TUV ensured that the issue of sectarianism in boxing reached the floor of the Northern Ireland Assembly when Jim Allister proposed an amendment to a mundane motion about Belfast City Council’s Boxing Strategy.
The amendment, which condemned the treatment of Sandy Row Amateur Boxing Club and called for the formation of a Northern Ireland Amateur Boxing Association, forced the powers that be to face up to two key issues – sectarianism and the right of people from Northern Ireland to represent the UK at the Olympics.
The publication of report of the Independent Working Group Examining Boxing in Ulster this week completely vindicated Sandy Row’s claims that sectarian is a major problem in the sport.
It found that there were “chill factors” which limited Protestant participation in the sport, recounted “serious claims of direct intimidation” and revealed that “a culture of ‘keeping your head down’ over these issues continues to exist in boxing”.
Furthermore, it identified failures on the part of the governing authorities within the sport to deal with the problems.
While the report’s authors refused to back a Northern Ireland amateur boxing association, they did highlight a problem which TUV has campaigned about for some time – the inability of boxers from Northern Ireland to fight under the Union Flag at the Olympics. They agree that “the nationality issue in the Olympics is a nettle that needs to be grasped”, not just when it comes to boxing but also in relation to other sports.
It is an absolute scandal that in many Olympic athletes from Northern Ireland are denied the right to represent the UK on the world’s biggest stage.
It will be interesting to see what action is taken to ensure boxers from Northern Ireland can, as the report says they should, represent the UK at the Olympics.