By Nick Butler

Despite success in the ring the ABAE is facing many problems behind the scenesOctober 8 - Sport England have threatened the suspension of the £5 million ($8 million/€5.9 million) of funding currently distributed to the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE) if the ongoing disagreements over the formation of the new Board are not resolved imminently.

Changes to the Board's structure were initially put forward in July only for a breakdown in any agreement in recent weeks - which has already led to the resignation of ABAE chairman Richard Caborn last month. 

An open letter entitled "The Way Forward" criticising the boards construction was circulated before an Emergency General Meeting (EGM) was held to ratify Caborn's removal.

It did not, however, go so far as to resolve the situation and the continuing disagreement led to today's condemnation. 

"The changes to the ABAE's Board structure, voted for by the regional members in July, were a very positive step forward for the organisation and the sport," said Phil Smith, Sport England's Director of Sport.

"It is disappointing that some individuals have now chosen to stand in the way of progress.

"If the changes are blocked, sadly we will have to suspend funding to the ABAE with immediate effect due to the instability the decision will produce

"We can't put public funding at risk if the ABAE membership chooses not to make the changes to the Board and we will have to seek alternative routes to invest in the sport of boxing.

"Throughout all of this our objective has been, and continues to be, to ensure public money is protected and current and future boxers do not lose out."

Richard Caborn's removal, which was confirmed by vote at the EGM, is one factor causing Sport England's likely removal of fundingRichard Caborn's removal, which was confirmed by vote at the EGM, is one factor causing Sport England's likely suspension of funding

The EGM, held at the Sheffield Ice Rink, was initially called to seek the removal of Caborn. 

But despite the fact that he had already resigned, it decided that "the purported resignation was not proven to the ABAE members so a vote went ahead anyway."

Caborn's removal both as chairman and a director was passed by 9 - 1 with one abstention and one failure to attend. 

However the necessity of the vote was questioned by the ABAE.

"Richard Caborn had resigned as chairman prior to the EGM, so why they felt the need to vote is a mystery," a spokesman for the ABAE told insidethegames.

The spokesman added in defence of the changes that "the process of recruiting and appointing a new board was open, transparent and consistent.

"It was overseen by an independent human resources consultancy, Portfolio International, and applications were reviewed against a skills matrix which was devised by the [previous] Board with the assistance of Grant Thornton.

"The process of modernisation has been agreed and endorsed by both the Board and membership of the ABAE so it is surprising and disappointing that a small group of people are continuing to try and derail the process and prevent change.

"Any attempt to block the changes would be wholly undemocratic and could result in the loss of public funding which would have a catastrophic impact on thousands of people and clubs that work in grassroots boxing."

President of the ABAE Keith Walters pictured opening the new Kingfisher Boxing  Club at Gorleston has added his opinion to the ongoing furoreHonorary President of the ABAE Keith Walters (left) pictured opening the new Kingfisher Boxing Club at Gorleston, disagrees with the proposed changes to the Board

However in a sign of just how deep the divisions lie the ABAE President Keith Walters put forward a contrary view.

Walters, who as President is not a voting Board member, reacted strongly to the portrayal of those disagreeing with the proposed changes as "a 'collection of blazers" with no "commitment to proper change".

"This is simply not true," he said.

"We have, from the outset, accepted the need for a Board of directors to be appointed on a 'skills basis'.

"The issue is one of fairness and transparency - the members believe that the former chairman hijacked the process in order to force through change on his terms.

"They are forgetting that the ABAE is a members organisation."

The EGM also called for the ABAE chief executive Mark Abberley to call a "grossly overdue" Annual General Meeting (AGM) although with no date yet set the situation appears unlikely to be resolved soon.

As well as Sport England criticism, there is also a future possibility that the International Boxing Association (AIBA) will again become involved although this does not appear imminent and seems unlikely to inhibit English boxers participating at international competitions.

The ongoing mire is unlikely at this stage to stop English fighters such as Sam Maxwell from competing at the world championships in Almaty later in 2013The ongoing mire is unlikely at this stage to stop English fighters, such as Sam Maxwell, from competing at the World Championships in Almaty later this month

Sport England have claimed that even if the ABAE funding is suspended this does not mean that the sport of boxing will necessarily miss out.

Alternative means such as funding, such as being allocated directly to clubs or to British Boxing instead of the ABAE are already being considered, a spokesman told insidethegames.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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