“Basketball in Ireland is a fantastic sport. It’s a big sport, sometimes you wouldn’t quite know that, and that’s one of the big challenges, but I’m really looking forward to helping to develop the sport over the next number of years.”
Those are the words of John Feehan, the man taking the helm at Basketball Ireland as their new chief executive effective 15 November, speaking as part of his unveiling in Dublin on Monday.
If Basketball Ireland were looking for a heavyweight figure in terms of the development of sporting organisations, they’ve done quite well here with Feehan the former CEO of the Six Nations and the British & Irish Lions (2002 to 2018) along with a four-year sting as CEO of the PRO12 (now URC).
Stepping into the role as CEO, Feehan openly admits to never playing the sport outside of “a bit of fun basketball in school”, but has a clear vision of where he wants the organisation to go and how he intends to grow the visibility of the sport in Ireland.
“I’ll be personally bringing a lot of passion into the sport”, says Feehan when asked about his transition from the world of the oval ball.
“Particularly in relation to the properties I’ve looked after in the past, the kind of order structure, 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 in the modern-day any sport really requires significant funding, and we need to be at the forefront of making sure that happens for basketball in Ireland as well.”
“I think there’s a couple of challenges, they’ve done very well in terms of growing the numbers and that’s fantastic, and you know there’s a great balance throughout the country, but I think areas like the level of visibility for the sport certainly need to be looked at, and how we can communicate that.”
“We’d certainly like to get better media presence, and clearly at a commercial level, I think we can do a lot better than where we are today. And that’s not any criticism of anybody in the past, just simply the sport has so much more to give, and I think the commercial partners will begin to appreciate that as we go forward.”
During his time with those rugby bodies, Feehan oversaw significant revenue, fan engagement and media growth for all of these properties.
Feehan has set up a number of successful sports-related businesses, including Lions Rugby Travel (the official Lions Travel company), and co-founded Sport2Sport, a specialist sports business consultancy. He is also chairman of travel business Irish Rugby Tours. He has been a business mentor for the charity Social Enterprise Ireland (SEI), which helps other charities with their administration, funding and growth.
He will take over as CEO on Monday 15 November.