Government refuses new inquiry into OCI ticket reselling deal

Inquiry would complicate OCI’s attempt to break contract with THG, committee told

Minister for Sport Shane Ross was requested  to investigate the agreement between the OCI and THG. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Sport Shane Ross was requested to investigate the agreement between the OCI and THG. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Government has decided not to initiate a new inquiry into the deal tying the Olympic Council of Ireland to British ticketing firm THG for the next nine years.

Officials from the Department of Sport and the Oireachtas Committee on Sport met on Wednesday to discuss a proposal made by committee members.

They had requested Minister for Sport Shane Ross investigate the agreement between the OCI and THG, which binds the two together in respect of ticket handling for the summer and winter Olympic games in 2018, 2020, 2022, 2024 and 2026.

The agreement was reached by former OCI president Pat Hickey but was not approved by the organisation’s executive board.

Mr Hickey stepped aside last year after the best part of three decades leading the OCI following his arrest as part of a Brazilian inquiry into the handling of tickets for the Rio Olympics. He has denied any wrongdoing.

THG was not granted permission to serve as Ireland’s authorised ticket reseller for last year’s Rio games and the organisers of next year’s PyeongChang winter games have also rejected the idea of THG taking the role.

Controversy

It is understood the department officials told committee members the OCI was attempting to break the contract with THG. It advised members to give the organisation the space and time to do that and said opening an inquiry would delay or complicate the process.

An official inquiry into the Rio ticketing controversy was carried out by Mr Justice Carroll Moran. The process took more than 12 months to complete, at a cost of €321,000, but he did not secure the co-operation from five of the six key players in the matter.

The committee wanted Mr Moran to carry out another module focusing specifically on the OCI-THG deal, something Mr Ross had already expressed a reluctance to do.

The committee also recently received information from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) advising it the ticket arrangement between the OCI and THG may have amounted to deception and breached criminal law.

Consider findings

The ODCE was asked to consider the findings of Mr Justice Moran’s inquiry, which found that THG, a British ticketing firm, was involved in the establishment of a firm named Pro10 to act as the OCI’s authorised ticket reseller for the 2016 Olympics after THG was not allowed to do the job.

It also alleged that Mr Hickey and THG owner Marcus Evans focused solely on the mutual financial benefit to the both organisations.

In correspondence to the committee, the ODCE found this was “the most serious” aspect of the report.