Obituary: Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas. Picture: contributed
Richard Thomas. Picture: contributed

SCOTTISH Boxing chairman transformed the sport when it was at a low ebb

Richard Thomas, Boxing Scotland chairman.

Born: 9 January, 1971 in Edinburgh.

Died 4 March, 2016 in Edinburgh, aged 45.

The death of Scottish Boxing chairman and successful businessman Richard Thomas at age 45 has shocked and deeply saddened all who knew him. A lifelong boxing fan and keen youth boxer himself, Richard joined the sport’s governing body in February 2009 as organisational director at a time when its fortunes were at a low ebb and in August 2010 became chairman.

Over these past seven years he went on to drive through and oversee a total restructuring of the organisation which brought not only success in the ring internationally for its elite boxers but also a huge and much needed improvement in the sport’s standards of governance.

It is no exaggeration to say his input transformed boxing here although he would have been the first to say, rightly, that although he led the way many others also contributed. Throughout his whole involvement he was a volunteer, devoting many unpaid hours every week while at the same time running his various businesses.

In 2008 an external audit of Amateur Boxing Scotland declared it “unfit for purpose’’ with the result that its core grant, and principal funding from Sport Scotland was withheld, leaving the sport in jeopardy. Richard’s restructuring led to the grant’s reinstatement and subsequent annual increases to the point where it is now several times the 2008 figure.

Proper management structures were put in place with the appointment of a chief operating officer Fraser Walker, a former international swimmer,with whom Richard enjoyed a productive relationship. Several new directors were appointed to the board on the basis of merit, with transparency underpinning the process, not always the case in the past.

Over time with improved funding available other appointments were made to supplement coaching and administrative staff. Particular efforts were made to make the sport more inclusive, promoting increased female,ethnic minority and LGBT participation,with the first female director appointed to the board in 2015.

Richard was primarily responsible for securing £360,000 of government Cashback funding, applied to provide some 600 youngsters in deprived areas the opportunity to participate in non contact boxing lessons,an initiative widely praised.

The new High Performance Centre in Bridgeton was a boon for top level boxers,the sport’s first permanent training base. Boxing Scotland’s profile and credibility in the eyes of its stakeholders improved immeasurably under Richard’s chairmanship.

This was reflected in the body’s Strategic Plan for 
2015-19 being awarded the biggest investment funding increase among all Commonwealth Games sports,a remarkable turnaround from previous days.

Success was also enjoyed in the ring, particularly at Glasgow 2014 where Charlie Flynn and Josh Taylor won gold and two bronze medals were secured. The Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010 also delivered medals while in the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa four medals were won by the four Scottish boxers,the only sport to achieve a 100 per cent return.

Richard’s success with Scottish Boxing led to his being appointed a cirector of British Amateur Boxing and interim chairman of that body in 2013. He was also appointed a member of the AIBA [the world governing body] Technical and Rules Committee,a highly prestigious post.

He was brought up in Muirhouse,Edinburgh,with brother Michael and sister Louise. His father Jim,originally from Sierra Leone, suffered a serious leg injury as a youngster. After initial treatment there by a Scottish doctor,he arranged for him to come to Edinburgh for more treatment, leading to him settling here and later starting a furniture business in Easter Road in the city.Richard attended Drummond High School where he particularly enjoyed and developed a talent for art and drawing. A boxing enthusiast, he fought a number of contests at youth level as a welter weight for the Leith Victoria and Sparta clubs.

His first job was as a tyrefitter, after which he set up his own joinery business, diversifying into shopfitting and cabinetmaking. A change of career into office equipment sales work followed after which he set up his own telecommunications company, Incovo,in Livingston in about 2000. He built this up to a very successful business with UK wide contracts and continued as chief executive until the time of his death. Other business interests include a recruitment company and interests in construction projects. He also had a long involvement with Livingston boxing club in a number of capacities while other interests included the gym and performance cars.

Richard was a singularly successful individual in different areas. He was excellent at tackling problems,breaking them down into relevant issues and producing pragmatic solutions. At the start of his involvement with the national body,the sport was riven by factional interests and politics.

To negotiate his way successfully through those minefields to bring unity called for special qualities. An exceptional communicator and “people’s person”, he was a tenacious visionary blessed with a sound temperament and an astute business mind. While medal success was important to him,his ideal was for more youngsters of all abilities to embrace the sport and enjoy its positive benefits of self worth,discipline,aspiration and fitness. This he strove to achieve with considerable success as many warm tributes testify. He is survived by sons Christopher and Rocco whom he loved dearly.