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September 9, 2022

IOC: IBA’s Gazprom dependence and governance still major concerns

The body has faced a series of controversies and governance issues in recent years.

By Euan Cunningham

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has expressed its continued concern over governance issues at the International Boxing Association (IBA) body in the form of a letter sent following a report by the IOC’s governance review group.

Amongst concerns expressed in the letter, according to several media reports, is IBA’s continued financial dependency on its major sponsor Gazprom – owned by the Russian state, with that country still invading and occupying Ukraine.

The body’s recent bungled presidential election, which will be re-held later this year between incumbent Umar Kremlev (from Russia) and Boris van der Vorst from the Netherlands, is also mentioned.

Boxing is not currently included in the sports program of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, and the letter read that “considering the absence of a real evolution the IOC executive board is not in a position to reverse this decision and will continue to monitor IBA’s governance.”

The review group was chaired by Swiss Professor Ulrich Haas, and the IOC’s sports director, Kit McConnell, has now said that recommendations made by that review group have not yet been “fully and practically implemented in an administrative and managerial way.”

IBA had its recognition by the IOC as boxing’s global governing body withdrawn in June 2019, due to a myriad of areas of concern – including refereeing, judging, financial stability (or lack of), and governance – meaning that an IOC-appointed task force handled the boxing program at Tokyo 2020.

The ongoing nature of these concerns means that IBA will also not be in charge of qualification events for the Paris 2024 games.

McConnell, in the letter, highlighted several specific areas of concern.

He said that there was still “no operating boxing integrity unit”, and that “there were some issues in regard to the IBA president’s office.”

He pointed out that “the recommendations were clear, to avoid a strong presidential office outside the administrative office in Lausanne [in Switzerland].”

However, McConnell said this has not been the case and that the president’s office – currently containing Kremlev, who has served in that role since December 2020 – has been “strengthened in terms of the administrative base of the federation.”

Kremlev was re-elected unopposed at the most recent IBA extraordinary congress in May after van der Vorst was declared ineligible to stand (a decision the IOC expressed concern over) because of alleged breaking of campaigning rules.

However, a subsequent appeal by the Dutch candidate found that he should have been allowed to take part in the election.

The election is therefore due to be held again at the next IBA extraordinary congress in Armenia on September 25.

McConnell’s letter also stated that the review group led by Haas “has had its contract ended, and they are unable to continue with the monitoring and assisting and full implementation of the recommendation that they have put forward.”

Another problem highlighted in McConnell’s letter is the failure of IBA to find alternative sources of revenue to that provided by the Gazprom partnership.

The sports director said: “This has not been mitigated in the information we have received so far, it has only been exacerbated or worsened by the fact that a number of bank accounts used for those payments are subject to sanctions in the current environment.”

In March, it was reported that IBA secretary general Istvan Kovacs had said in a letter to national federations that due to the federation’s still-perilous financial situation, a complete termination of the Gazprom deal is not possible.

Before Gazprom’s funding kicked in, the body was in debt to the tune of over $15 million, and the energy giant is now its single largest sponsor.

McConnell has said that the aforementioned issues create “a clear picture regarding the very grave concerns that continue in regards to the governance of the IBA and the messages that send around a change in culture in the federation.”

IBA, earlier today (September 9), issued its own statement, following the IOC letter. 

In it, boxing’s erstwhile governing body said that “IBA is confident it has implemented the vast majority of recommended reforms …

“We believe the IOC is not well-informed regarding the current financial state of IBA, but we remain open to any request for shared information.

“The restructure of the Lausanne office was a necessary process for its continued smooth operation moving forward.”

It added that the next IBA congress “will dispel the myth and all doubts over IBA’s commitment to good governance.”

In response to the IOC’s expressions of concern over IBA not retaining Haas and his review group, IBA said it “thanks Professor Haas and his team for recommending all necessary governance reforms and monitoring.”

These developments came on the same day that it was revealed that the deadline for an investigation into the men’s European Boxing Confederation (EUBC) Championships in Armenia earlier this year, has now been extended.

The initial deadline was set for August 31, but the McLaren Independent Investigation Team (MIIT) which has been handling the case has now called for an extension until October 6.

The original investigation dates from late June, when the board of directors at IBA decided to give MIIT the role of investigating potential corruption at the EUBC Championships, primarily relating to suspicious judging decisions.

MIIT – headed up by Professor Richard McLaren, who handled a separate investigation over the last 12 months into the governance of IBA since the mid-2000s – has cited “trouble tracking down and scheduling interviews with key personnel” as the reason for the extension.

The IBA directors board has now agreed to the extension.

Image Julian Finney/Getty Images

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