Sunday 26 January 2020

New OCI chief met with Hickey to discuss THG four months ago

OCI President Sarah Keane. Picture: Frank McGrath
OCI President Sarah Keane. Picture: Frank McGrath
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Olympic Council of Ireland president Sarah Keane met with her predecessor Pat Hickey four months ago to discuss contracts with the company at the centre of the Rio ticketing scandal, the Irish Independent has learned.

Ms Keane did not mention the meeting during a lengthy press conference following the publication of the Moran Inquiry - but has now confirmed it took place on April 4.

At the same time, Mr Hickey was refusing to co-operate with the inquiry, commissioned by Transport Minister Shane Ross.

During the meeting Mr Hickey provided "some information" on the OCI's relationship with THG which he had personally managed during his time as president.

A spokesperson for the OCI said Ms Keane needed to meet Mr Hickey "due to a lack of information available at the OCI office".

She inquired as to the status of contracts with THG, which is owned by British millionaire Marcus Evans. The inquiry concluded Mr Hickey and Mr Evans enjoyed a "concealed relationship".

It has since emerged that the OCI is legally tied to work with THG for the winter and summer Olympics in 2018, 2020, 2022, 2024 and 2026.

The deal is understood to be worth around €1m. Although no money has yet been exchanged, the OCI is investigating whether it can void the contracts.

"Mr Hickey provided some information regarding sourcing some of the paperwork but at no time did he indicate to her that there were signed agreements in place with THG up to 2026," a spokesperson for the OCI said.

The full content of the meeting is likely to be raised during a special sitting of the Oireachtas Committee on Sports tomorrow, which Ms Keane will attend.

Mr Hickey has also been invited to the meeting but his solicitor last night wrote to the committee advising it that he will not be making himself available. Sources said Mr Hickey has cited legal advice which suggests attending the hearing could prejudice his right to a fair trial in Brazil.

He is currently awaiting trial on charges of ticket touting, forming a criminal cartel and illicit marketing.

After Ms Keane's meeting with Mr Hickey, a search of the OCI's office in Clontarf was conducted but staff failed to locate the THG agreement.

"Therefore the OCI had to pursue the matter through solicitors for THG which took some time and copies of the relevant agreements were only recently received for the periods already outlined," a spokesperson said.

"The OCI is receiving legal advice on the agreements with THG for future Games up to 2026, and these agreements will be discussed in detail at an upcoming meeting of the OCI board."

The situation poses an immediate problem for the OCI, as the organising committee for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang is refusing to work with THG.

As a result there is a question mark over how Ireland will access tickets for the Games.

The OCI told the Irish Independent it only expects between five and 10 Irish athletes to attend the Games next year.

A spokesperson said it is "in touch" with the organisers regarding tickets and "further details on our plans in this regard will issue in due course".

Meanwhile, the Government has yet to decide whether to reinstate nearly €400,000 in funding which was withheld from the OCI.

The inquiry heard that Sport Ireland stopped making payments to the OCI in late 2016.

The OCI, meanwhile, did not complete the relevant applications for funding in 2017 due to its involvement in the Moran Inquiry.

Irish Independent

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