Basketball Ireland has taken the decision to deactivate both the senior men’s and women’s international teams due to the effects of a financial crisis within the organisation.
The full effect of this financial crisis is a debt of €1.2m, which makes the continued funding of the international teams too much of a financial burden.
This will come as a major disappointment to the Ireland women’s team, who had previously lobbied the organisation to allow them to continue competing with funding sourced elsewhere.
Paul Meany, executive chairman of Basketball Ireland, said: ‘This is a financial rather than a philosophical decision.’
‘We have had to cut back on every possible way or we face the scenario of Basketball Ireland collapsing.
‘This time last year we had 27 staff. Now we have 11. I am here in a voluntary capacity. FIBA have been very understanding about this and have given us a measure of support.
‘We have always had a hand-to-mouth existence here, but a combination of bad financial information and maybe trying to develop the sport more quickly than was feasible has left us with no choice but to make these decisions.’
The Ireland women’s team came extremely close to promotion to the top tier of European basketball last season – the A division - and this decision is extremely disheartening for the squad and management.
Anne Diffney, the Irish team manager, only became aware of the possibility of Ireland not being entered into competition this year when the team did not appear in the seeding for the next European competitions. At this point she was informed that the funding for the national teams may be discontinued.
Diffney commented: ‘There was a late entry date of 16 January, which we begged Basketball Ireland to go for. If we ended up not entering, the fine would have been €2,500. But if you are €1.4m in debt, what difference does that make? And we – the women’s team – would have been prepared to pay the fine anyway.
‘We felt FIBA would have looked favourably on our case because we are a small nation, we did well in the last competition and there were only nine countries in our division: we would have balanced it up. But we were not given the option of raising the money so we are out in the cold.’
The Dutch team, which Ireland was in direct competition with to claim second spot in their division, has an annual budget of €1m. Ireland’s budget, by comparison, was only €48,000.
The nation’s underage teams will continue to compete in European competition, for the reason that they have always been entirely self-funded.
Meany, meanwhile, is hopeful that Basketball Ireland will be able to return both international sides to European competition by 2012.