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Sunday 22 July 2018

We don't want Hickey back after Rio probe, says new Olympic boss

OCI President Sarah Keane. Picture: Frank McGrath
OCI President Sarah Keane. Picture: Frank McGrath
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The new boss at the embattled Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) has admitted she and other board members would have "significant difficulty" with Pat Hickey taking up a future role in the organisation.

OCI President Sarah Keane yesterday detailed for the first time her only meeting with Mr Hickey, since he was arrested and investigated in Brazil over his alleged role in last summer's ticketing scandal.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport, Ms Keane said she used the meeting, in part, to inform him that the board was not prepared to sign off on a €60,000 honorarium for 2016.

"My view was he was a little surprised," Ms Keane said when asked whether Mr Hickey tried to resist the move.

Ms Keane was also asked over the prospect of Mr Hickey returning in an ex-offico role, if he is cleared by Brazilian police.

He stated this week that he was looking forward "in due course to resuming my international Olympic duties" once the legal proceedings are complete.

"I'm not pre-empting anything but I expect from soundings I'm getting (there would be) significant difficulty with the former president being involved, " Ms Keane said.

Read More: Mulvey meeting 'sent wrong message'

The Oireachtas committee heard that the OCI is taking legal advice over whether it can withdraw from a controversial deal with THG, the British firm at the centre of the Rio row.

A contract signed by Mr Hickey without the knowledge of the board gives the company the right to be Ireland's ticket agent until the 2026 Olympics.

Ms Keane said the OCI does not have original copies of the contracts and that its legal team is examining whether they are valid. The issue is due to be discussed at length at the OCI's EGM in the coming weeks.

She told TDs and senators that athletes will suffer severely unless funding is reinstated.

"We will have to cull certain activities or run to another deficit," she said.

"We can't keep running to deficits as an organisation."

Mr Evans' THG firm was blocked by the Rio organising committee from acting as an authorised ticket reseller last year. The Moran report found that Pro10 was then set up in Ireland to get the allocation.

Ms Moran admitted the Pyeongchang 2018 winter games organising committee in South Korea is also refusing to allow THG to operate.

Sports Ireland chief executive John Treacy and its chairman Kieran Mulvey also addressed the committee. Members of the committee also asked questions over whether Sports Ireland was ever subjected to political "interference".

Mr Mulvey said that was too severe but said he would often be told by a minister after an appointment: "Kieran would you go in there and ensure waters are calmed down."

Irish Independent

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