Boxing-AIBA says pays off $10 million debt, signs Gazprom as sponsor

BERLIN, May 26 (Reuters) - The International Boxing Association (AIBA) said on Wednesday it had repaid a $10 million debt to Azeri company Benkons LLC, with the governing body trying to restore its status after years of financial irregularities and governance issues.

AIBA also announced a new two-year sponsorship deal with Russian energy firm Gazprom which it hopes will help provide much-needed financial stability.

The association was suspended in 2019 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and stripped of any involvement in the qualifiers and tournament for the Tokyo Games.

The IOC had said AIBA’s overall debts had reached $16 million and could rise to as much as $29 million. It had also demanded immediate governance reforms among other.

The $10 million loan from Benkons had been for the now-defunct World Series of Boxing venture, AIBA has said.

“Financial issues have hung over the leadership of the sport I love for too many years,” said AIBA President Umar Kremlev, who took over in December, in a statement. “They have even threatened our Olympic future.

“Closing the debt (to Benkons) is a core achievement for our financial health and future Olympic prospects. I am very happy that we have been able to resolve this and ensure stability for AIBA.”

The Russian was elected late last year with the task of implementing sweeping and immediate reforms in order for it to be recognised by the IOC in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

AIBA said revenues from new sponsor Gazprom would help its financial support programme for national federations and the sport’s continental confederations.

It did not provide financial details on the size of the Gazprom deal but said AIBA will be distributing $2 million among the federations each year as part of the financial support programme, while an additional $2.5 million will go into boxing equipment to countries.

Each of the five AIBA Confederations will also receive annual payments of $500,000 per year.

Kremlev has pledged to attract revenues of $50 million over the next two years to rebuild AIBA while the IOC has said its status will be reviewed after the Tokyo Games.

“I promised we could bring financial stability this way, through money from clear and very respectable sources and that’s exactly what we have done,” Kremlev said. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Peter Rutherford )