Debbie Massey Brings Change To Irish Basketball

02 June 2006

One of the goals of the Year of Women’s Basketball is to see more female administrators.

Basketball Ireland CEO Debbie Massey is a fine example of the success women are having at an organisational level.

Massey, who also serves as Vice President of the FIBA Europe Women’s Commission, has demonstrated success in a short amount of time since beginning her position with Basketball Ireland in 2001.

Prior to joining Basketball Ireland, Massey worked for 12 years with the Gaelic Athletic Organisation.

In 2005, the Irish men's team came in first place in their group Division B qualifying round games.
Massey, who describes herself as a lifelong sports fan, has been at the helm of Irish Basketball’s re-structuring, which has consequently led to greater funding and improved performance from national teams.

She provided us with some insights about the changes in Basketball Ireland.

FIBA Europe: Can you tell us about state of Irish basketball when you began as Basketball Ireland’s CEO in 2001? What were your initial goals?

Massey: There had been some good work carried out prior to 2001, but there was no strategic plan for the good of all stakeholders in the sport. My target at the beginning was to deliver a comprehensive strategic plan for the organisation. In addition, when I took over, Irish basketball was not a unified organisation. There were a number of separate bodies all operating independently and funding was low for the sport. 

FIBA Europe: How did you go about forming a strategic plan?

Massey: First, we assessed the situation. We consulted aroung the entire country over a two-year period to learn more about the state of Irish basketball. We got the opinion of all parties involved in Irish basketball. Afterwards, we considered the key areas which needed to be addressed to improve basketball and we produced the strategic plan.

FIBA Europe: What are the components of the strategic plan?

Massey: From an organisational standpoint, we want to strengthen the administration of Basketball Ireland.  This will help us in raising the profile and image of basketball in Ireland and attract greater investment in the sport. In addition, we want to increase participation in all areas, develop players at the top international level and provide a framework for top class competitive basketball. In order to do this, we also need to secure access to a network of facilities in all areas. The eight key strategic areas within the plan are governance and management, training and development, participation, competitions, high performance, facilities, marketing and investment. All of our work from now until 2008 fall under these eight key areas.

FIBA Europe: How has this strategic plan directly affected basketball in Ireland?

Massey: The development of the strategic plan enabled us to bring everything under the same organisation so that our coaches, referees and other departments were all under the Basketball Ireland umbrella. After bringing all these various segments together, we changed our name from the Irish Basketball Association to Basketball Ireland and then we were ready to modernize our image. FIBA Europe played an integral role in re-launching our brand. The culmination of this came in 2003 with a ceremony attended by Ireland’s Sports Minister John Donoghue, FIBA Europe Secretary General Nar Zanolin and Irish Sport Council Chief Executive John Tracey.

FIBA Europe: What have been some of the positive results of this organisational restructuring?

Massey: In 2005, we had the biggest number of live television hours ever dedicated to basketball for our national and international competitions and with the promise for continued improvement. An Irish Sports Council report provided evidence of the size and popularity of our sport and more importantly it indicated a clear capacity within basketball to deliver programmes and initiatives nationwide which can assist in addressing the key area of the health and well-being of Irish people.  Crucially, we have been able to secure substantial additional funding to enable us to implement the plan and provide opportunties for basketball to grow and develop throughout Ireland.

FIBA Europe: As a member of the FIBA Europe Women’s Commission, you played a role in bringing the Year of Women’s Basketball to fruition. Can you speak a little bit about the project and how it is helping you in Ireland?

Sports Minister John Donoghue will unveil the Year of Women's Basketball project in Ireland on June 13th.
Massey: I think it is a great project for a small country like Ireland. It is very important to us and our government is supporting the project financially. Due to the Year of Women’s Basketball, we had a strong case to merit this funding. It helped us in comparison with the other institutions seeking financial assistance. We have received 370,000 Euro, 120,000 Euro which is for projects and initiatives and 250,000 Euro to assist in the hiring of regional development officers. The fact that the Year of Women’s Basketball lasts 18 months will help us next year also when we can go back and (a) show what we have achieved this year and then (b) seek additional funding for another series of projects.

FIBA Europe: What types of activities will take place in Ireland in regard to the Year of Women’s Basketball?

Massey: Basketball Ireland shares the same goals as the Year of Women’s Basketball. We will be having a national launch on June 13th which will be attended by Ireland’s Sports Minister John Donoghue and the Year of Women’s Basketball Project Manager Esther Wender. At the launch details of the planned projects will be presented. They will include initiatives aimed at increasing the number of females involved in basketball across all aspects of the sport such as players, referees, coaches, administrators and volunteers.

FIBA Europe: The Irish national teams have come a long way since the early nineties, when Ireland was playing in Promotion Cups. Last year Ireland came close to qualifying for Division A on both the men’s and women’s side as each team finished with a 4-2 record in their respective groups.  What can we expect from the national teams this year?

Massey: Greg Gurr, our technical director, is doing a great job in leading our national teams program. Our goal this year is to gain promotion to Group A for both men and women and we hope see our teams in the 2009 EuroBaskets.

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