Friday 20 April 2018

WATCH: 'Ticket-touting' report to be forwarded to Olympic ethics body

An Olympics ethics body led by former United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon is to get the report on alleged ticketing touting in Rio 2016.

While ex-Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) president Pat Hickey refused to cooperate with the inquiry, its work uncovered million euro contracts he secured with Ipswich Town FC owner Marcus Evans and his firm THG to resell Irish tickets at the London, Sochi and Rio games.

It subsequently emerged other contracts are in place with the OCI for the Olympics up to 2026.

Sports Minister Shane Ross said he may also send a copy of the report to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

"We are going to consider a large number of options in the coming weeks about where we go with this report," the minister told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.

While it is being referred to a new ethics committee in the International Olympic Committee, which Mr Ki-moon is expected to lead, it will also be sent to IOC president Thomas Bach.

On the issue of state funding for the OCI, Mr Ross said he was anxious to restart payments which would ultimately benefit athletes.

"But the idea that we should give funding to a body which has not set its house in order is unacceptable," the minister said

"The organisation was not being run in the interests of the athletes at all. It'd be wrong for us to give money to anybody unless we were absolutely satisfied that the corporate governance was in order."

Mr Hickey declined to attend the special hearing on the grounds it could interfere with his right to a fair trial in Brazil.

No decision has been taken on whether the committee should try to compel him to answer questions.

The inquiry into the Rio 2016 Olympic Games ticket touting controversy was sparked after Mr Hickey, the former OCI chief, was arrested and detained in prison in Brazil on accusations of ticket touting, running a cartel and illicit marketing.

The Moran report strongly criticised the relationship between Mr Hickey and THG, a sports hospitality firm.

A senior executive at THG, Irishman Kevin Mallon, was arrested in Rio last year carrying tickets that came from the OCI and Pro10.

The firm was the authorised reseller or distributor of tickets for Ireland after THG's bid was rejected by the Rio Organising Committee.

Mr Hickey said the Moran inquiry clears him of criminality and financial impropriety and that he would be cleared of all charges in Brazil.

OCI president Sarah Keane told the committee that the organisation has suffered reputational and financial damage from the alleged ticket touting scandal in Brazil.

"We unreservedly apologise to Irish Olympians, coaches, families, members federations and others for the issues that arose in Rio and indeed where this detracted from the performances both then and also now of Irish athletes," she said.

Ms Keane said lawyers for Mr Evans' THG firm sent the OCI copies of documents which set out two agreements for it to sell Irish tickets at the winter and summer Olympics from 2018 to 2026.

But she warned she could not discuss the content of those deals at the committee.

"The OCI has not seen original copies of these agreements. The OCI is taking legal advice on the validity of these documents," Ms Keane said.

The organising committee for PyeongChang 2018 has told Mr Evans' company it will not be allowed to sell tickets in South Korea, the committee heard.

Ireland is expected to send five to 10 athletes to the next winter Olympics with demand for tickets from family and supporters not expected to be great.

Ms Keane said there were no indications of issues around tickets for Rio in the two years prior to the games.

She said she had been aware of issues with seats at the swimming arena, mainly due to her connections as the former head of Swim Ireland, but she told the committee ticket issues for the Olympic pool are not unusual as it is popular and normally a small venue.

Mr Hickey claimed in a statement through a solicitor this week that he was setting his sights on returning to an Olympic role.

But Ms Keane told the committee: "The current Olympic Council of Ireland board would have significant difficulty with the former president being involved again."

She also called for OCI funding to be ringfenced to allow athletes to fly business class to the games, rather than a past practice of sports chiefs getting privileges while sportsmen and women were offered cramped economy seats on planes.

"It's not about everybody sitting in the back. It's about the right people sitting in the front," Ms Keane said.

The committee was also told Pro10 owe the OCI at least 50,000 US dollars for rights to sell tickets for Rio.

Ms Keane gave a little detail on the contracts for THG to act as an authorised ticket reseller in London 2012 and Sochi 2014 and a subsequent deal for the games up to 2022.

Ms Keane said the former OCI board approved a 2010 deal that gave THG rights to London and Sochi and an option for Rio and Pyeongchang in 2018.

The second executed those options and gave further options for Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022.

"From everything we have seen it does not appear that this (2012) contract was board approved or brought to the attention of the board," Ms Keane told the committee.

The OCI chief also said Mr Hickey appeared surprised when he was told in a private meeting with her that he would not be paid a 60,000 euro so-called "honorarium" payment for his work with the organisation in 2016.

Press Association

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