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Basketball Ireland announced on Monday morning that former Six Nations Chief Executive Officer John Feehan will succeed Bernard O’Brien as CEO of the national governing body for the sport next month.
Bernard O’Byrne vacated the role in July after he mocked the Black Lives Matter movement in a Facebook reply to a BBC News post about the foul on Raheem Sterling that led to England’s winning goal in the Euro 2020 semi-final against Denmark.
Feehan spent 16 years as the CEO of the Six Nations and the British & Irish Lions, between 2002 and 2018.
The former chief of the then-Pro12 is excited to step into the role in place of O’Byrne and play a part in growing the sport in the nation.
“Yeah, I suppose there’s a multitude of things really,” Feehan said when asked about his decision to join Basketball Ireland. “I suppose the big one is the potential for growing the sport in Ireland.
“Basketball, as you are probably aware, is the fourth biggest sport in the country – it’s the biggest indoor sport in the country and to some extent, not a lot of people know that.
“And that’s sad in a way, but it’s also a great potential opportunity and also, I think commercially there’s lots of room for improvement.
“It’s going to be one of those ones where so much potential to grow the sport, not just in terms of playing numbers but in terms of levels of interest with the general public and together into the national psyche as a major sport within the country.
“So, yeah, it’s a great challenge.”
Feehan has previously been involved in sponsorship with Irish basketball “about 25 years ago” with Killester Lucozade Sport.
He is looking forward to continuing that relationship with basketball as CEO of the national governing body and promoting its diversity.
“It is so inclusive, it actually effectively allows everybody and anybody within the country to get involved in sport, and to have a natural interest in to show that you know it can work for anybody no matter what background they come from, no matter what gender they are.”
Ireland have had recent success on the international scene with their men’s and women’s teams.
The men’s team won the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries that Ireland hosted in August after four wins from four at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.
The women’s side came second in Cyprus in July at the same tournament, being denied a first-ever FIBA Small Countries win by Luxembourg – Claire Melia earned an All-Star for her performances.
“I think every sport needs aspirational figures and aspirational teams to go for it.
“If you can’t be inspired by wanting to play for your country to play at the highest level for your country, there’s something wrong.
“Similarly, with all the top clubs, you know, We’ve got to get players below that level to want to play for those top clubs.
“So at the end of the day, the international scene has been very important – it’s your shop window in lots of respects for your sport.
“So we’ve got to make it as important as any other international, any other sport in our [country]. So we’ve got to put the program together to make that happen.”