Ireland’s sailing presidents cross paths during Tokyo 2020 performance review


Former ISA President Roger Bannon reacts to the publication of the Tokyo Olympics external performance review, as the current chairman of the Irish Sailing David O’Brien defends the submission of the report and optimism for Paris

Confidence in Irish sailing ‘at rock bottom’

It is pleasing to see the change of heart to publish the carefully edited Tokyo Games report, although disappointing that much of the substantive background has been redacted or ignored. It is clear that the widespread criticism from various sources has been independently justified.

Interestingly, the mainstream media sees the report as a catalog of failures. Under these circumstances, it seems very odd that the Performance Director would “endorse” the report which, in reality, represents a very negative assessment of the performance of our Olympic Steering Group. It would be interesting to hear the reaction of the president, Patrick Coveney.

The management failures are evident and not only harm the elite athletes involved, but unfortunately also perpetuate a consequential negative impact on grassroots sailing by enacting harmful strategic policies.

Roger Bannon was president of the association from 1994 to 1996

The inexplicable and inconsistent changes to the Radial selection process for Tokyo; the failure of modest technical support for the only discipline, the 49er, in which we had to provide equipment; the unexpected failure of our Laser representative to qualify for the Games when he showed his class shortly afterwards by finishing 2nd at the World Championships; and the abject housing planning disaster in Tokyo, contribute to a long list of critical failures.

Following the unwarranted increase in expectations, it is also clear that Sailing’s relationship with Sport Ireland must understandably be strained with the disappointments in Tokyo.

In any other national sports body, the consequences of these failures and anxieties would be clear and decisive.

It is time that the management of this relationship with Sport Ireland returned to the direct control of the Board of Irish Sailing. It is intolerable that senior Council members have had little or no involvement in the management of this critical relationship.

In the meantime, the Council must take urgent and important action. A good start would be to review the membership of the Olympic Steering Group (OSG) and appoint people specifically responsible for operational, financial and human resources matters to report directly to the Board.

To continue to justify the significant level of ongoing government funding (as the 3rd best funded Olympic sport in Ireland), it is time for a comprehensive review of the management structure of the Irish Sailing Association and an assessment honest about its effectiveness in meeting the objective strategic objectives of Irish Sailing.

Confidence in the Irish Sailing Association is at rock bottom and restoring credibility with sailors and government funders must be a top priority for the board.

-Roger Bannon

The report gives clear directions for the success of Paris

I wish to make the following comments regarding the Uppercut report, as Roger Bannon’s article suggests that he may have been misinformed.

The report as published has not been redacted. Suggesting it is incorrect. As you will appreciate in many cases, the full report cites actual feedback given by, sometimes identifiable, stakeholders (athletes, Sport Ireland officials, our high performance team and members and CEOs of the Irish Sailing Board ), who openly participated in the understanding of total confidentiality.

As is normal with such reviews, Uppercut prepared both documents (full and summary), and they are confident that all of their findings and conclusions are in the summary report. The Board of Irish Sailing trusts that all salient points raised in the full report have been published in the summary. It is our duty as members of the Irish Sailing Board to ensure transparency and good governance and to suggest otherwise is incorrect and indeed disappointing.

David O'Brien, Chairman of Irish SailingDavid O’Brien, Chairman of Irish Sailing

The Irish Sailing Board is pleased with the reaction within Irish Sailing to the report, particularly from the OSG Chairman and High Performance Director. Whilst the report acknowledges the issues to be addressed, it also provides lessons for future campaigns and as such Irish Sailing views the report as a work in progress in our desire to develop the most successful organization possible and to winning future Olympic medals. Everyone within Irish Sailing strives to improve, and as such the report provides clear guidance on what needs to be worked on.

The HPP has been in existence since the Athens Olympics and is a well-established, stable and structured program that has seen its resources and structures evolve and expand over time. As usual at the end of an Olympic cycle, and in the light of this report, the Irish Sailing Board will review the terms of reference of the OSG. One of the report’s recommendations was to review internal communications, which have already been activated by our CEO.

Although the report comments on the relationship between Irish Sailing and Sport Ireland, we do not believe this relationship is in any way under the stress suggested by Roger Bannon, but rather a relationship jointly disappointed by the Tokyo result. But we can report that a very positive follow-up meeting took place with Sport Ireland to present the summary report to them and they, in turn, expressed their satisfaction with the integrity of the report and its recommendations. Both parties are confident that the report will help strengthen our relationship in the future, especially with the Paris and Los Angeles Olympics in mind.

The Irish Sailing Board and OSG will continue to work closely together to ensure that the issues highlighted in the report are resolved and the best possible results are achieved in Paris.

-David O’Brien


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