PARENTS of children playing for four clubs that are not affiliated to Basketball Ireland claim it is unfairly trying to stop them playing for school teams.
Three months ago, Basketball Ireland introduced a rule that prohibited members of clubs that play in unrecognised leagues from entering their competitions. Bernard O’Byrne, secretary-general of Basketball Ireland, has defended the move saying the clubs could not have “one leg in and one leg out” as they played in a “rogue league” last year.
The rule affects four clubs in the northeast and midlands: Cavan Lakers, Navan Cougars, Streete Warriors and Liby Dynamites. Seven members of the clubs were members of the North East Area Board which is in a dispute with Basketball Ireland.
Five members of the North East Area Board recently lodged High Court defamation proceedings against the governing body.
“This is an issue nowhere else in the country except with these four clubs in the northeast,” said O’Byrne, who accepts that hundreds of children may be barred from playing for their school as a result of the rule. “That may be the outcome of it, but that is not what Basketball Ireland are doing,” he said.
“What we are saying is the seven individuals who are suspended have to comply with our instructions and return documents. If they don’t, they have to step down from these clubs. The clubs are not suspended. It’s seven named individuals. Certainly we don’t want to prevent anyone playing basketball, quite the opposite.”
O’Byrne accused the clubs of endangering the participation of children in school competitions, not Basketball Ireland.
Linda Kelly, whose daughter Jenny plays for Streete Warriors, which is based along the Westmeath/Longford border, believes the instruction to schools is tantamount to bullying.
“These children have done nothing wrong yet they are being targeted over the clubs they play for outside of school,” she said. “It’s discrimination and the children don’t know why Basketball Ireland are doing this.”
Kelly said the Mercy Convent in Ballymahon, where her daughter is a student, has assured her it will not ask students which clubs they play for or bar them from games. Kelly has complained about Basketball Ireland’s instruction to Jan O’Sullivan, the minister for education.
Cavan Lakers said it was disappointed not to be participating in Basketball Ireland activities “following a refusal to allow us register”. It said “an unfortunate set of circumstances” had led to this.