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Ex-Six Nations and Lions boss Feehan lands role in another sport

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Former Six Nations and Lions CEO John Feehan is back in sport after being appointed chief executive of Basketball Ireland three-and-a-half years after he stepped away from rugby in April 2018. The Dubliner had been in charge of two of rugby’s biggest properties for 16 years, but there was disquiet after the Six Nations only managed to secure a title partner for the 2018 season on a one-year deal.


The appointment of Benjamin Morel as CEO was soon followed by a multi-year deal with Guinness to sponsor the Six Nations, while responsibility for the 2021 Lions tour to South Africa was given to managing director Ben Calveley. 

It was last July when the CEO vacancy arose in Basketball Ireland after its boss Bernard O’Bryne, the former head of the Football Association of Ireland, courted controversy following a social media message he posted about England footballer Raheem Sterling during the Euro 2020 semi-final versus Denmark.  

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O’Bryne commented “Black Dives Matter” in reference to a penalty incident in the match and his subsequent resignation paved the way for Feehan to take over this week after upwards of 70 people applied for the CEO role. “That was a difficult situation for all concerned,” said Feehan, referencing the controversy that led to O’Byrne’s departure. “They reacted extremely well, extremely quickly and have dealt with it.”

Feehan, an ex-Leinster and Old Wesley front-rower, will now hope his rugby business acumen via Six Nations and the Lions will prove useful in a different sport. “Clearly at a commercial level, we can do a lot better than where we are today. That is not a criticism of anybody in the past, it’s simply the sport has so much more to give and the commercial partners will begin to appreciate that as we go forward.

“I personally will be bringing a lot of passion into the sport, particularly in relation to the properties I have looked after in the past, the kind of order, the structure of administration, understanding how to put the whole programme together to make sure the whole thing works, to make sure the thing is funded properly because modern-day requires significant funding and we need to be at the forefront of making sure that happens for basketball in Ireland as well. There is a whole heap of different things we can bring to it.


“Basketball in Ireland is a fantastic sport, it’s a big sport. Sometimes you wouldn’t know that and that is one of the big challenges but I am really looking forward to helping develop the sport over the next number of years.”


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