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New ISA Board to Shake–Up Irish Sailing

10th March 2014
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New ISA Board to Shake–Up Irish Sailing

#irishsailing – After a year of protest over its policies the new board of the Irish Sailing Association (ISA) is to hear plans for a shake–up of the association aimed at reversing the decline in participating numbers. 

Incoming Irish Sailing Association (ISA) president David Lovegrove's first job will be to hear the in-depth report on the state of the association at its first board meeting in ten days time. Major change is on the cards, according to insiders, who say the ISA is about to get a long over due shake–up thanks to the work of the association's Strategic Review Group (SRG) established last November.

At last weekend's agm, Lovegrove heard from ICRA commodore Norbert Reilly who was the latest sailor to spell out just some of his frustrations. Reilly, who can lay claim to nearly half of the ISA membership through his cruiser–racer ranks, has demanded a bigger share of available resources.

'ICRA represents up to 7,000 sailors on cruiser racer boats, many of whom contribute a serious amount of money to the ISA via the capitation fee from their individual clubs, and these sailors want a fair share of these funds spent on areas where they can participate and benefit', Reilly told Afloat.ie

How Sports Council funding and ISA club affiliation funds are spent is at the heart of the matter. For over a year critics of current policy say there is an 'over-emphasis of the training of selected juveniles by the creation of elite squads of possible future Olympians'.

As ISA membership numbers drop by a quarter, clubs and classes have vented their anger with the organisation. It began last year online at Afloat.ie and manifest itself as a motion for change at last year's agm by dinghy sailors Norman Lee and Bryan Armstrong. Since then the association received over 300 proposals at a testy dinghy forum at the National Yacht Club in March 2013. 

'I want a full shake-up. Lets take the focus off the Olympics and have a root and branch reappraisal of sail training' Lee told the ISA. 

By July, the board was confronted by three former association presidents at a specially convened meeting at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire who demanded a new plan for Irish sailing.

By November, then president Niamh McCutcheon announced an independent group of sailors would lead a review of the association. In framing the terms of reference for the SRG McCutcheon conceded 'events have overtaken it and the ISA needs a new plan'. 

Since then the SRG with the full backing of the club network has been working on 'a review of current practices' which it is understood will get its first airing at the ISA board room on March 20th.  One of the big areas to be looked at is where funding is being spent.

In round terms, the association turns over €2m per annum. €1m is ring fenced for Olympic team endeavours. Another €1m provided by clubs and other state grants that say critics is largely eaten up by bureaucracy. The association currently employs 14 staff. Its accounts show a €769,519 payroll for the 14 months to December 2013. 

Meanwhile, SRG chair Brian Craig, has left no stone unturned in speaking with clubs and individuals round the country about how the ISA should be entirely focussed on its original purpose of serving member clubs. It is understood this will be central to the SRG's new plan.

Incoming treasurer Roger Bannon, a former president, has also not minced his words in the past on the subject, consistently arguing for change.

Significantly, Craig has included Bannon, an outspoken critic of current ISA policies in the SRG line–up. A dinghy and sportsboat champion in his own right, Bannon used his term in office two decades ago to secure the position and financial viability of the association as a national sporting authority by making every member of a sailing club in Ireland also a member of the ISA.

It was a bravo move that unified Ireland's sailing clubs into a stronger whole fit to nurture the talent necessary to challenge the world at the top levels of sailing. But in more recent times that fitness has been called into question, and Bannon is among those who hit out at an authority that has arguably lost its relevance to all bar those at the most elite levels in the sport.

In a call for change on Afloat.ie a year ago, "The ISA has lost its way over the last few years," Bannon said, giving his view of a bureaucracy "detached from the reality of what is going on in the front line".

Craig has also asked another former president Neil Murphy, along with Olympic race officer Jack Roy, sailmaker Des McWilliam and small boat advocate Bryan Armstrong to join this Group, with the option to add others as the process continues.

Now its 'initial examination' of the ISA is completed the SRG will move on to recommend 'future strategies' in  just over a week's time.

Published in ISA
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