In the year 2000, a group of boxers and boxing enthusiasts, lead by the late Joseluis Montegriffo, unhappy with the way the only local boxing club was run, got together to set up a new club, The Gibraltar Wellington Boxing Club ("GWBC"). We knew that the Gibraltar Amateur Boxing Association ("GABA"), that governed the sport was going to make it difficult for us, since the person at the head of GABA was also the head of the only club in Gibraltar. Little did we know that it would have taken two administrations and a total of 15 years to get to the point where the monopoly held over this particular sport in Gibraltar, was about to end. We have lost count of the number of meetings we've had with the Minister for Sport over the last 15 years and the matter continues unresolved.
During this time, we trained in Joseluis Montegriffo's home terrace and other places like abandoned buildings. In 2009, we were fortunate enough to be awarded premises to setup our club. Soon after this, we began fighting for recognition by GABA. After being told by the people running GABA that we would never be able to achieve recognition from them, we decided to take our problem to the then Minster for Sport, Edwin Reyes. Mr Reyes commissioned a legal opinion from the AG Chambers who deemed GABA's constitution to be clearly "unlawful". GABA was offered the oportunity to revise their constitution to allow, in and amongst other issues, for more than 1 club to become affiliated to them, but they refused.
When we first obtained a copy of GABA's constitution it exceeded our worst expectations. It monopolised boxing in Gibraltar under a single Association/club. Amongst the audacious rules we found was: "Due to Gibraltar's small size, there can only be one club". To most people involved in any sport in Gibraltar where the most common value is to promote a sport through it's Association, this may sound outrageous... and it is.
The Hon Stephen Linares, then became Minister for Sport so we arranged a meeting with him to update him on the subject and request he resolve the matter. Mr Linares seemed to be very interested in the matter but wasn't sure about the legal opinion commissioned by the previous administration so he commissioned one of his own. That opinion, also agreed that GABA was been run by an "unlawful constitution" which was hermetically sealed with the idea to prevent any other club from becoming established in Gibraltar.
Unfortunately a lot of toing and froing took place which lost us critical time. During August 2015 the Gibraltar Sports Advisory Council ("GSAC"), chaired by Mr Linares met and agreed to revoke GABA's powers. GSAC solicited that GABA re-draft their constitution to (in and amongst other requested changes) allow other clubs to be accepted and recognised by the Association.
GABA was informed that until a new constitution was submitted that was accepted by GSAC, GABA was effectively dormant and would not be allowed to book Government owned facilities (i.e. the Victoria Stadium) to organise any events. This was a giant leap in the right direction for our club, so we decided to give Mr Linares the time he was asking for to solve the problem. Minister Linares told us during a meeting held at his offices during August 2015 that GABA would have to submit an acceptable constitution by the end of October, or else the Association would be revoked. Over 3 years went by since Mr Linares promised us, for the first time, to help and it seemed that at last the time had come when he was going to deliver his promise.
Towards the end of October 2015, close to the deadline for the submission of the revised constitution, we learnt that GABA had been granted permission to hold an event in Victoria Stadium on 4th December. We didn't hear from Minister Linares but we assumed that if they had been granted the premises by GSLA, GSAC must have received and approved the new constitution. However, when one of our committee members confronted Minister Linares, he dismissed any knowledge of the issue and said "Fabian has taken over now, he's calling the shots".
Recently and coincidently when our club President Joseluis, became irreversibly ill we find that our Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo QC has taken matters into his own hands. Our sources informed us that GABA was given carte blanche by the Chief Minister to book Government facilities for their event, without the need to submit a revised constitution. In other words, our Chief Minister has completely bypassed the Minister for Sport, GSAC and the advice of AG Chambers and has given GABA the freedom to hold a boxing event on 4th December at the Victoria Stadium without even consulting the stakeholders let alone inform us of his decision. This situation, given the nature of the sport, also raises the question of where do responsibilities lie in the event of an accident.
Sadly our club has since lost our President Joseluis to brain cancer. Everyone who knew Joseluis Montegriffo, knew how passionate he was about boxing. All he wanted to do was organise events to raise funds for charity. This summer, our club put together a 12 hour Skip-A-Thon that managed to raise over £15,000, all of which was donated to Cancer Relief Gibraltar. This made Joseluis extremely happy as he had sadly become a beneficiary of this charity due to his illness. The fact that the Chief Minster came to visit him at the above mentioned charity event made him very proud. He boasted that Mr Picardo had once again promised to help with our club's plight. He posed in front of the press for a photo with him before Mr Picardo left. All of us, down at the Gibraltar Wellington Boxing Club are in shock with the latest turn of events. We cannot understand how anyone could have done this to Joseluis, notwithstanding the fact that all he was asking for was the opportunity to run a club, nothing more. We feel betrayed not only by the Minister for Sport who we believe should have stood his ground but especially our Chief Minister himself who claimed to be a friend of Joseluis. Those of us who knew Joseluis, know full well that if Joseluis hadn't been in hospital in an extremely bad shape, this wouldn't have happened so some of us might be forgiven for thinking that the timing was very carefully chosen to prevent having to face him.
We hold Mr Picardo, Mr Linares and all those behind GABA, and anyone who could have stood up and raised their voice against this injustice but didn't, responsible for depriving Joseluis Montegriffo from his last wish.
Shame on all of you.
The Committee of the Gibraltar Wellington Boxing Club.