Column: Another amateur farce as two Commonwealth Games places go to waste

Column: Another amateur farce as two Commonwealth Games places go to waste

By Dewi Powell: It’s the night before the Commonwealth Games begin with the opening ceremony in Glasgow and the Welsh amateur boxing authorities are embroiled in yet another controversial incident.

In what is hopefully the final episode of an embarrassing series of events for Welsh Boxing, the organisation who govern amateur boxing in Wales, European gold and Olympic silver medallist Fred Evans has been denied accreditation by the Home Office and the Commonwealth Games officials on the accreditation decision board.

Team Wales issued a deliberate and blatantly vague statement to confirm the news and it didn’t disclose any of the reasons that led to the calamity conclusion. However, what is certain is that it’s another situation that has been horribly handled. Team Wales’ shambolic statement, which will only serve to fuel confusion and curiosity, said that they’ve been speaking to “all relevant bodies over the last few weeks” and now they need to answer how long this time, in which they proposed two mitigation plans, has actually been going on.

If these talks began before the boxing squad submission deadline ended then the officials will have effectively gambled a place at the Commonwealth Games and lost it. It’s important to know how long this period lasted because many will argue that if there was any doubt over Evans’ position, then he should have been replaced by an eligible boxer before the deadline so that the position wouldn’t go to waste.

One man with a right to feel aggrieved by the absence of a Welsh welterweight at the tournament will be Jordan Thomas. The Heads of the Valleys Boxing Club member holds the second strongest claim to the place having won the Welsh Senior Championships in March. However, there will now be nobody going in Evans’ place because it’s too late. Many suspect that Evans’ knock back was related to a criminal conviction earlier this year and whether that should be sufficient enough to not allow him to the Commonwealth Games is a matter that will be deservedly debated, should it turn out to be the real reason for the refusal of accreditation.

However, what shouldn’t be swept under the carpet is whether the officials knew of the risks to Evans’ place before the squad submission deadline and whether at that point, they should have picked a boxer who was definitely allowed to enter the competition.

It wasn’t long ago that the rhetoric of Wales’ strongest squad ever was rife and the National Head Coach Colin Jones predicted that Team Wales would have 11 medallists but now, it isn’t even sending 11 boxers. The boast raised eyebrows at the time given that Wales has only won nine Commonwealth Games medals in the last 12 years but now, it’s undeniably embarrassing.

The Fred Evans fiasco follows another debacle that saw female light-flyweight Ashley Brace booted out of the competition by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), making it two places that have gone to waste and the first one definitely was down to a Welsh Boxing gaff… In March, Brace won the Welsh Senior Championships by defeating Wales’ previous number one, Lynsey Holdaway. However, the Torfaen Warrior’s boxer had previously competed in a kickboxing competition and this violated AIBA rules.

Despite receiving letters to highlight the rule violation in April, Welsh Boxing ignored the very valid points and nominated Brace for the Commonwealth Games and it was approved by the Commonwealth Games Council for Wales. Then two weeks ago, Brace was banned by AIBA and it was too late to replace her.

The Commonwealth Games has provided Welsh boxing with heroes and it’s provided those heroes with a platform to show their talents to the world. Given that the opportunity only comes knocking once every four years, and generously forgetting that a British based tournament is even rarer, then heads should roll for the two places that will now be completely empty when there are perfectly acceptable replacements that could’ve stood in. But nothing will change, nothing at all. Nothing.

The discontent for the authorities is growing in Wales, more than ever and it was highlighted by their snub of Kevin Evans. In the biggest public criticism of the organisation, nearly 900 people voted on that the selectors should choose the super-heavyweight record setter Evans to attend his fifth Commonwealth Games. However, Welsh Boxing retorted that only 11 boxers could attend. Here we are now with nine boxers going and two places going to waste…

As this anti-old boy’s-establishment feeling grows, so does an acceptance that the publicly funded body are untouchable and unaccountable for anything. It’s sad but the facts are that Welsh Boxing’s delusion allows them to remain in their positions, no matter how inept they perform their roles. The shame is that the people in suits, who were deemed ‘not fit for purpose’ by an independent report in 2013, will remain in their positions while hard working boxers will miss out.

– Dewi Powell, BoxingWales

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