Friday 9 December 2016

'We need answers.... do we support Hickey?' - OCI grassroots

Published 08/09/2016 | 02:30

Bernard J O’Byrne, secretary general of Basketball Ireland. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE
Bernard J O’Byrne, secretary general of Basketball Ireland. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

The head of Basketball Ireland has demanded answers from the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) about the ticketing controversy at the Rio Olympics.

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Bernard J O'Byrne wrote to the acting president of the OCI, William O'Brien, asking how and why "matters developed as they did in Brazil".

And in his to-the-point correspondence, Mr O'Byrne asked Mr O'Brien the direct question: "Do we support Pat Hickey?"

Mr O'Byrne, who has been head of Basketball Ireland since 2011, is a former chief executive of the FAI.

His letter, obtained by the Irish Independent, was circulated on September 6 to the heads of the 39 OCI-affiliated organisations.

He claimed OCI member organisations were being put "in a very vulnerable position" due to an absence of information from the organisation.

He asked which person the board would support in the event of an election for president and "what exactly were the actions" the executive board has taken regarding the ticketing issue.

"We are being put in a very vulnerable position due to the fact that we have no information on which we can base reasonable and honest replies to the above questions.

"We believe that it is now imperative that a meeting of all members of the OCI be called to receive relevant information from the officers and executive board," Mr O'Byrne wrote.

"I hope that, led by yourself, the executive of the OCI will accede to this request as a matter of urgency."

A statement from the OCI said it was aware of the letter.

It also said the OCI has set out its commitment to review its corporate governance arrangements and it will soon announce its plans in this area.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr O'Byrne explained he wrote the letter because he was being asked questions he didn't have the answers to.

And he said there seemed to be a sense of apathy in dealing with the issue.

He said that Mr O'Brien has since responded to the letter and agreed to hold a meeting following the conclusion of an internal investigation into the ticketing issue, the deadline for which is October 10.

However, no specific date has been set for a meeting.

"We just don't have any information. I'm a person who is being asked questions about this by the media and others that I can't answer," he said.

Mr O'Byrne expanded on the issues he wanted clarification on. These included who set the terms of reference for the Grant Thornton review of the handling of ticketing arrangements for the Rio Olympics and if this would go back to 2012.

"If this review goes back to 2012, why? And if not, why not?

"I don't have the terms of reference," he said.

A three-person crisis management team was set up by the OCI in August to deal with the response to the Rio controversy. Mr O'Byrne wanted to know what has happened to this team and if it was still operating.

He said he did not take the decision to send the letter himself and that it was agreed by Basketball Ireland.

Mr O'Byrne's interjection came as a the public prosecutor's office in Rio de Janeiro formally laid charges before a judge in relation to Mr Hickey and THG director Kevin Mallon for the alleged ticket-touting scandal at the Olympic Games.

Marcus Kac, public prosecutor, signed the papers on Tuesday morning, passing formal charges to a Special Court for Supporters and Large Events.

A judge there must now decide whether to accept or reject charges against two Irishmen and eight others also listed in the charges.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has promised to co-operate with Brazilian authorities in the ticket scalping investigation. It came as IOC president Thomas Bach missed the opening of the Paralympics.

Irish Independent

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