Sunday 19 January 2020

Ex-president's secret contracts with 'ticket tout' firm

Pat Hickey. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Pat Hickey. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Former Olympic Council of Ireland president Pat Hickey secretly tied the organisation into contracts with the company at the centre of ticket touting allegations until 2026. The deal, understood to be worth around €1m over a decade, was signed after THG was rejected as a ticket agent by the Rio Organising Committee.

Lawyers for the OCI are now trying to see if they can break free from the contracts but new president Sarah Keane described them as "pretty watertight".

OCI executives only learned they were legally bound to continue working with THG in recent weeks. The revelation was not contained in the Moran Inquiry report but was uncovered during background contacts between the OCI and officials for THG.

Ms Keane confirmed that on January 18, 2016, Mr Hickey signed two separate agreements. The first ensured the OCI would put forward the company owned by British millionaire Marcus Evans as ticket agents for the Winter Games in PyeongChang (2018) and Bejing (2022), as well as the Summer Games in Tokyo 2020.

A separate contract ensured a similar arrangement for the subsequent games in 2024 and 2026.

The contracts included a clause which stated that even if THG were rejected at a previous Olympics this would not impact on future dealings with the OCI.

"It's a pretty watertight contract. We need to consider it legally and look forward," Ms Keane said.

She said the deals involved a "substantial amount of money" but refused to disclose figures, adding that no money has changed hands yet. The Irish Independent understands the arrangement was similar to that initially negotiated between Mr Hickey and THG for the Rio Olympics. Had the deal not been rejected by the Rio organisers it would have been worth $600,000 (€509,000) to the OCI.

Asked whether she believes THG intends to proceed with the arrangement for future Olympics, Ms Keane said: "They have not given us any indication that they won't so those contracts are in place."

She said the situation presents "quite a challenge" for the OCI but its preference would be for a "fresh start" in relation to ticketing. As a result of the controversy Ireland is now without a ticketing agent for next year's Winter Olympics.

It has emerged organisers in PyeongChang wrote to the OCI in mid-July saying they would not facilitate THG. In a letter they said the allegations that THG officials were involved in the attempted resale of tickets in Rio is "a serious problem".

The organisers told the OCI that events in Rio "raised doubts on THG's ability as an ATR to act fairly in reselling tickets". "This has also led to a detrimental effect on the reputation of the Olympic Movement."

Ms Keane said she has not had any direct conversations with THG boss Marcus Evans who the Moran report said shared a "concealed relationship" with Mr Hickey. The OCI is also investigating whether it is owed money from THG dating from its partnership with the OCI in 2012 and 2014.

"We are struggling to reconcile the THG monies after London and Sochi and this will require further consideration by us," Ms Keane said.

Similarly it is believed that Pro10, which the Moran Reports says was used to "disguise" THG's continuing relationship with the OCI in Rio, owes at least $50,000 (€42,000) to the OCI.

The ticket controversy has severely impacted on the OCI's reputation to the point where it no longer has any sponsors.

A kit deal with New Balance recently expired and was not renewed, meaning the body will have to use its own funds to pay for team tracksuits for athletes at next year's Games

In a statement THG said: "It is satisfied that, at all times, it has acted lawfully in connection with the Rio Olympics, or any Olympics and will make no further comment."

Irish Independent

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