Inside Lines: Blazers square up to each other in the Olympic ring


Click to follow
The Independent Online

A bitter "battle of the blazers" is seriously endangering the future of Britain's highly successful Olympic boxing set-up, with the former Labour sports minister Richard Caborn threatening to resign as chairman of the Amateur Boxing Association of England following a move to depose his close friend and one-time political ally Derek Mapp as head of umbrella body the British Amateur Boxing Association.

The infighting centres around a bid by the home boxing associations to have a greater say in the governance of the sport which Mapp, a former Sport England chair, helped revolutionise at elite level when founding BABA after the Beijing Olympics. The domestic associations claim their role, and that of constituent clubs, has been diminished by the advent of BABA and want more control over the sport and its funding.

Led by ABA Scotland, they have called an extraordinary general meeting for 28 May, when it seems certain Mapp will be forced out. His removal will surely have ramifications at GB Boxing's headquarters in Sheffield where, under Mapp's stewardship, the state-of-the-art training and accommodation facilities and record medal haul at London 2012 are the envy of world boxing.

Any major upheaval might even lead to the departure of the well-regarded professional head coach, Rob McCracken, whom Mapp appointed. It could also affect GB's preparations for this year's European and World Championships and future participation in the World Series of Boxing tournament, which rewards boxers with substantial prize money.

Mapp tells us: "They are hell-bent on removing me as chairman and a break-up of the BABA structure, and it looks as if they are going to win. It is the old story of the blazers wanting more power, but there are a few more episodes of this story to come yet." A millionaire businessman and restaurateur, Mapp made his money in the brewery industry, and was recently appointed High Sheriff of Derbyshire. His critics allege he is "too autocratic".

The ABA Scotland chair, Richard Thomas, says: "While I have a lot of respect for Derek this has always been about boxing people taking ownership of the sport. The sport has to modernise, but you must not leave behind the people who have been running it. All the home nations want is a genuine engagement with the performance pathway."

But Mapp is firmly backed by Caborn, despite ABA England being one of the "anti" associations. Caborn walked out of a formal meeting of the associations last week when denied a vote, and admits: "I am considering my position. If the future is decided as one of modernisation, I am part of it. If it means going back to the past, I am not."

Stakeholders UK Sport and Sport England, who between them have invested a total of £20 million in amateur boxing and have concerns about its administration, are keeping a watching brief on the situation and could now intervene, as they have in other sporting squabbles.

Hoops to conquer?

Croquet hasn't been an Olympic sport since its one and only appearance in the 1900 Games in Paris, when the French swept the board – or rather, the lawn. So it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn that it is the beneficiary of Olympic Legacy funding, the local croquet club in Swindon landing a £42,622 windfall for a new clubhouse.

Said club spokesperson Mary Bedells: "It is so nice to be able make a cup of tea, sit inside if it rains and look out to see if people are still playing – because we do play when it rains." How lovely.

Quiller Barrett, president of the Croquet Association, formally cut the ribbon last weekend and, who knows, perhaps set the ball rolling for an Olympic comeback. But genteel croquet may well have competition from cricket, also last played in the Olympics of 1900 but revived as part of Danny Boyle's 2012 opening ceremony. The International Cricket Council are considering a bid for 2024. Wouldn't 2020 have been more appropriate?

Wembley full up for teutonic night

Wembley announce there are no more seats available for the all-German Champions' League final on 25 May. They all have towels on them.