Saturday 24 February 2018

Olympic Council of Ireland cuts ties with firm linked to Rio ticket-touting case

THG and the Olympic Council of Ireland have ended their business relationship
THG and the Olympic Council of Ireland have ended their business relationship

The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) and THG, the firm at the heart of the Rio 2016 ticket-touting allegations, have mutually agreed to terminate their business relationship.

Owned by Ipswich Town chairman Marcus Evans, THG has been the Irish sports body's ticket reseller since 2010 but their partnership has been mired in controversy since ex-OCI president Patrick Hickey was arrested by Brazilian police at the start of last year's Olympics.

Hickey, who ran the OCI for 28 years and the European Olympic Committee for a decade, is among 10 individuals who have been charged with ambush marketing, criminal association, money-laundering, tax evasion, theft and ticket-touting.

The Brazilians believe the Pro10 agency the OCI used as its authorised ticket reseller in Rio was a front for THG as it was blocked from handling Olympic tickets because of allegations about unlawful sales during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Hickey and THG deny these claims.

The 72-year-old Irishman, however, was detained in Brazil for several months until the Association of National Olympic Committees agreed to pay his bail so he could return to Ireland to await trial on health grounds.

Having already resigned his European and Irish positions, he stepped down as an International Olympic Committee vice-president last month.

Thanks to a deal Hickey did in January 2016, the OCI was contractually tied in with THG until 2026 but it had already confirmed it would act as its own ticket agent for February's Winter Olympics in South Korea.

After mediation carried out by Irish Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Finnegan, the contract for the 2020, 2022, 2024 and 2026 Games has now also been cancelled.

In a statement, the OCI said it " accepts" these contracts "were enforceable" and "THG fully intended performing its contractual obligations".

"(But) both parties agreed that with THG reducing its business activities in Ireland this would be the most appropriate course of action in the interests of Irish athletes and the wider Irish public," it continued.

"THG has been the OCI's most significant commercial partner since coming on board in 2010. The OCI wishes to acknowledge THG's willingness to reach an amicable resolution in this matter."

The Rio allegations are still the subject of an IOC investigation but a judge-led Irish inquiry has already found that Hickey had a "concealed relationship" with Evans and they were colluding to get around Rio 2016's refusal to grant THG official status.

Press Association

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