Basketball Ireland: Boycotting Israel game would mean losing a 'generation of players' - John Feehan

Feehan speaking at an event last year
Feehan says Basketball Ireland were told by governing body Fiba they would face heavy sanctions if they did not fulfil Thursday's fixture against Israel

The Irish women's basketball team would lose a "generation of players" were they to boycott their EuroBasket qualifier against Israel, says Basketball Ireland CEO John Feehan.

Ireland are due to play Israel in the Latvian capital Riga on Thursday.

There have been calls for Ireland to boycott the game given the ongoing Israel-Gaza war.

Speaking to RTE, Feehan said Basketball Ireland would face heavy sanctions if they did not fulfil the fixture.

According to Feehan, Basketball Ireland were told by governing body Fiba Europe that they would be fined 80,000 euro (£68,201) if they did not play on Thursday and a further 100,000 euro (£85,245) fine if they did not fulfil the return game in November.

Ireland would also face expulsion from the Fiba Women's EuroBasket 2025 competition.

"I'm pretty sure we'd be hit pretty hard because we did actually ask was there an alternative to playing this game and all the rest of it, and from that perspective there isn't," said Feehan.

Feehan added that "money is everything" to an organisation like Basketball Ireland.

"But the really big issue for us is we'd be effectively getting rid of a generation of players. We'd be out of international competition for the next five years effectively.

"Not only would we be out of international competition for the next five years but it would probably take us another five years to get back to where we are now, so in real terms we'd lose a generation of players.

"We'd also lose role-models for our kids as they go through the process of learning to play basketball, there'd be nowhere to go."

Feehan does not believe boycott would make a difference

Feehan also believes a boycott would not "make a blind bit of difference" to the ongoing situation in Gaza.

"What's happening in Gaza is dreadful, we all acknowledge that. The issue is whether this is going to make a difference to the Israeli government and, quite frankly, we don't believe this would make a blind bit of difference.

"What it will do is destroy our women's international game for the next ten years."

In a statement, Irish Sport for Palestine called for Basketball Ireland to boycott the game, adding that playing the fixture would be "ruinous" for the organisation's reputation.

"John Feehan claims boycotting the game against Israel would be 'ruinous' for Basketball Ireland," said Irish Sport for Palestine.

"Well, Irish Sport for Palestine says not in our name, and that playing with Israel will forever be 'ruinous' for his and Basketball Ireland's reputation.

"Israeli basketball coach Sharon Drucker says 'Sport symbolises something and the Irish didn't respect that'.

"Irish Sport for Palestine reiterates that Basketball Ireland cannot look the other way and be complicit in the grotesque sport-washing of Israeli genocide.

"They must commit to boycotting the Israeli match now."

It has also been reported that five members of the Ireland squad have opted out of playing Thursday's match.