Belfast Telegraph

OCI refuses to disclose 'not insignificant' fee paid by agent for ticket rights

The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) has refused to disclose how much an agent paid for the rights to s ell tickets to games up to 2026.

OCI president Sarah Keane said searches of Olympic House HQ in Howth, Dublin, and trawls of emails and paperwork revealed aspects of contracts signed with Ipswich Town FC owner Marcus Evans and his firm THG.

The Moran report into alleged ticket touting in last year's Olympics in Brazil revealed the millionaire's THG and Pro10 companies paid a total of 1.6 million US dollars to get rights to resell Ireland's tickets in the London, Sochi and Rio games.

Former OCI president Pat Hickey refused to cooperate with the inquiry.

Last month, Mr Evans' lawyers sent the OCI copies of two signed agreements which set out his rights to sell tickets from 2018 to 2026.

"In terms of valuation, I can't disclose it. I will say it's not insignificant, (that) would be the best way to put it," Ms Keane said.

The OCI chief told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport that she had not seen the original contracts and was taking legal advice on the information.

Ms Keane said Pro10 owes the OCI at least 50,000 US dollars for rights to sell tickets for Rio.

She said one deal the OCI had with THG, dating from 2012, appeared to have been brought before the board. A later one, secured last year, was signed by Mr Hickey and never came before the board.

Ms Keane said her predecessor did not give her any indication about the long-term agreement running to 2026 when they met earlier this year.

She also cautioned about his claim that he will get back into Olympic governance after a near 30-year career at the head of the Irish association came to a sudden stop following his arrest in Rio on accusations of ticket touting, running a cartel and illicit marketing.

"The current Olympic Council of Ireland board would have significant difficulty with the former president being involved again," Ms Keane said.

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

No decision has been taken on whether he should be compelled to answer questions.

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

The report is to be sent to an Olympic s ethics body led by former United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon and president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach.

Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, said he may also send a copy of the report to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

State funding for OCI sports has been withheld since the scandal.

And Mr Ross told the committee: "T he idea that we should give funding to a body which has not set its house in order is unacceptable," the minister said

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.

The Pyeongchang 2018 organising committee in South Korea is also refusing to allow THG to operate.

It is not known whether similar laws on ticket touting or reselling will apply for Olympic games in Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022, Paris 2024 and then in 2026.

Ms Keane said she had not been aware of any indications of issues around tickets for Rio in the two years prior to the games.

She said she knew about 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.

Ms Keane 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 heard that the culture in the OCI was to jealously guard its autonomy.

Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy and its chairman, Kieran Mulvey, revealed that as far back as 2009, they were warned by the Government "no rows with the OCI".

"He (Pat Hickey) was a very influential and dominant person," Mr Treacy said.

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