Monday 5 December 2016

Hickey said THG could have 'first refusal' on ticket deals

Published 23/08/2016 | 02:30

Footballer-turned-politician Romario also raised questions about THG, claiming its hospitality packages were aimed at wealthier clientele. (Photo: EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)
Footballer-turned-politician Romario also raised questions about THG, claiming its hospitality packages were aimed at wealthier clientele. (Photo: EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) president Pat Hickey had planned to give the Marcus Evans Group, owners of controversial firm THG Sports, "first option of refusal" on a ticket distribution contract for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

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The OCI boss, who is in custody in Brazil as police continue an investigation into ticket touting allegations, made the comments in a promotional video recorded prior to the London games in 2012, the Irish Independent has learned.

However, THG's application to become an official ticket reseller at this year's Olympics was rejected by the Brazilian National Olympic Organising Committee in October 2015, despite being sponsored by the OCI. A month later the OCI ­awarded a contract to resell its tickets to Irish firm Pro10 Sports Management.

Police in Rio believe Pro10 was created to enable the ­diversion of tickets to THG.

THG's application to sell tickets for Rio is unlikely to have been helped by a police investigation into a "ticket mafia" at the 2014 World Cup, during which its former chief executive James Sinton was arrested.

Footballer-turned-politician Romario also raised questions about THG, claiming its hospitality packages were aimed at wealthier clientele.

In the video, which appears on the Marcus Evans website, Mr Hickey was gushing about the OCI's link-up with the hospitality group for London 2012 and the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

Read more: Paul Kimmage: It isn't about sport, athletes or athletics for Pat Hickey, it's about power and privilege

He described the company as "the best known and most professional" he had dealt with.

"I think the relationship with the Marcus Evans Group will be a great one going into the future," he said.

Asked about a potential continuation of the OCI's relationship with the group after the Sochi Games, Mr Hickey said: "We would be very happy that Marcus Evans Group would have the first option of refusal, if you like, or take-up. And I think it will work very well between both parties."

In the video Mr Hickey also referred to plans for the Irish House venue in London, an OCI-backed hospitality venue which was run by THG during the 2012 Games. He said the OCI did not have the expertise to run such a venue, but the Marcus Evans Group did.

However, the video did not mention that Mr Hickey's son Stephan was employed by THG at the time and involved in the running of the venue.

Detectives have said Pro10 acted as a bridge to get tickets from the OCI to THG.

They say the scheme unravelled when THG director Kevin Mallon was arrested on August 5 with more than 800 tickets, most of which were from the OCI's allocation.

Both companies have denied any wrongdoing. Pro10 insisted Dubliner Mallon (36) was acting as a point of contact for Pro10 customers in Rio so they could collect tickets.

Pro10 insisted there was no commercial link between the two companies and that Mr Mallon had simply been doing them a favour.

It subsequently emerged that out-of-hours calls to Pro10's offices in Lucan were diverting to a Marcus Evans Group mailbox.

Pro10 has said THG was not paid for the manning of phones.

The Lucan-based company was awarded the ticket reseller contract last November, even though it had only been set up the previous May and had no track record in handling ticketing for large events.

Its directors are football agents Eamonn Collins and Michael Glynn and financial advisor Ken Murray. Clients include at least two footballers who have played for Ipswich Town, which is owned by Marcus Evans.

A Pro10 spokesman said it would not be commenting further on the controversy due to the impending Government inquiry announced by Sports Minister Shane Ross.

Irish Independent

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