Friday 21 July 2017

Changing culture at the top will be my priority, vows new OCI chief

New Olympic Council of Ireland president Sarah Keane at Swim Ireland HQ in Blanchardstown Photo: Frank Mc Grath
New Olympic Council of Ireland president Sarah Keane at Swim Ireland HQ in Blanchardstown Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Shane Pelan

Staff at the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) had been due to take a day off following the historic EGM on Thursday night. But the dramatic changing of the guard at the embattled organisation meant they had to show up for work as usual yesterday.

Among those visiting the OCI headquarters in Howth, Co Dublin, were new president Sarah Keane and new honorary general secretary Sarah O'Shea. Most of the new board were sleep-deprived following the events of the previous night, but demonstrated their eagerness to get on with things by participating in a conference call. Their first proper meeting is next Friday.

Former OCI president Pat Hickey Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE...ABC
Former OCI president Pat Hickey Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE...ABC

In total, eight new members were elected to the OCI executive committee, with four retaining their seats.

Read more: New Olympic chief is a battler who believes athletes must come first

Only one of the 12, honorary treasurer Billy Kennedy, could be described as having been a supporter of former president Pat Hickey, who held sway at the Olympic body for 28 years until his arrest for alleged ticket touting in Rio de Janeiro last August.

Reflecting on her first day as his successor, Ms Keane gave an insight into the dramatic changes that can be expected in how the council does its business.

The OCI's new honorary general secretary Sarah O'Shea Photo: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE ...1RP
The OCI's new honorary general secretary Sarah O'Shea Photo: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE ...1RP

While Mr Hickey (71) dominated the OCI and made most of the key decisions, Swim Ireland chief executive Keane (43) said any decisions in future would be taken by the board as a whole.

In an interview with the Irish Independent at her offices at the National Sports Campus in Blanchardstown, Ms Keane said one of the first things board members would be doing would be getting training on their fiduciary duties as directors.

She hopes this training will also "help with the culture side of governance and encourage robust discussion at the board".

Every member was given a task at yesterday's telephone conference.

Six main areas were identified where committee members will gather information on the current workings of the OCI, with a view to seeing how they can be improved.

Read more: Hickey 'old guard' swept aside as swimming chief Sarah Keane takes OCI helm

Ms Keane said she was anxious to get a conversation started on the future of the OCI and would be engaging in consultation with its member federations.

"In order for us to be more relevant to people, they need to understand better what we are about and what our vision is," she said.

While much of her thoughts are dominated with the future direction of the OCI, the recent past is still very much a live issue.

One of the first nettles to be grasped is the OCI's relationship with THG Sports, the ticketing agency at the centre of the Rio controversy.

THG holds the contract to be the OCI authorised ticket reseller for the Winter Olympics next year in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

But Ms Keane said the board would have to review the issue.

"My view is it needs to be examined," she said.

Another issue to be considered is whether to reactivate the Grant Thornton report into ticketing arrangements in Rio. The outgoing board suspended that inquiry, which had cost almost €215,000, after Mr Hickey threatened an injunction last November. It was close to completion at the time.

"I think the new board will want a discussion on that," Ms Keane said.

The Grant Thornton report had been due to be handed to Carroll Moran, the retired judge appointed by the Government to investigate the Rio ticketing affair.

Read more: Sarah Keane succeeds Pat Hickey as Olympic Council of Ireland president

While he has not been given any of the work done by the consultants, Ms Keane confirmed the judge had received all of the data Grant Thornton examined.

"I have no idea when Judge Moran is going to report, but from my perspective we have to deal with whatever comes out and address it," she said.

Ms Keane said she was confident governance changes suggested by another consultancy firm Deloitte could be implemented swiftly and with the approval of the IOC.

These include placing limits on how long executive committee members can serve. "Almost everything in Deloitte, if not everything, has already been implemented by the US Olympic Committee, so I don't see how it can be said to us there is a difficulty with that," she said.

Irish Independent

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