Government to continue to withhold OCI funding

Shane Ross says all legacy issues must be addressed before payments are restored

Minister for Sport Shane Ross is seeking a termination of a contract between the OCI and British ticketing firm THG. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Sport Shane Ross is seeking a termination of a contract between the OCI and British ticketing firm THG. Photograph: Alan Betson

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The Government has insisted it will not restore funding to the Olympic Council of Ireland until all legacy matters are addressed satisfactorily.

It has withheld funds from the OCI since the arrest of its former president Pat Hickey and allegations of ticket touting at the Olympic games in Rio surfaced.

Minister for Sport Shane Ross has confirmed he will meet the organisation next Tuesday night at its request.

Mr Ross has insisted the Government is eager to return the money to the organisation but will not do so until all outstanding issues are resolved.

In particular the Minister is seeking a termination of a contract between the OCI and British ticketing firm THG.

The Government funds the OCI to the tune of €520,000 a year. Without that money, the organisation says the services it offers to athletes will be affected.

Mr Hickey is facing criminal charges in Brazil over alleged ticket touting.

It emerged recently that the organisation had been tied into an agreement with the firm until 2026 despite it being rejected as the official ticket reseller for the 2016 and 2018 Olympic Games.

The OCI said the contract was signed by Mr Hickey without the consent or knowledge of the board.

Break contract

President of the organisation Sarah Keane said the deal appears watertight but confirmed it is examining ways to break the contract.

Mr Ross said the Government needed to be assured this was dealt with satisfactorily before funding could be resumed.

The Minister said he would not tolerate anything linking the OCI to the practices of the past.

He told The Irish Times: “We are going to listen to what the OCI has to say. All the legacy issues have to be cleared up before they get funded. But we are eager to hear what the OCI has to say.”

The issue of the contract only came to light after the publication of an inquiry into the ticket touting controversy by Mr Justice Carroll Moran.

The retired judge’s report was critical of the relationship between Mr Hickey and THG, claiming they sought to protect their own commercial interests over the concerns of athletes.

Contract

The OCI said it only became aware of the contract when Ms Keane met Mr Hickey in April this year. The deal allows THG to act as the official ticket agent for the summer and winter Olympic Games in 2018, 2020, 2022, 2024 and 2026.

It was signed by the former president and Marcus Evans, the owner of THG.

In a statement last week, the OCI sought the immediate restoration of monies “with a view to expediting the reinstatement of State funding” to protect the future planning and preparation of athletes.

“The board is eager to move forward, to take the learnings [sic] from the past and to focus its time and energy on implementing its reform agenda and concentrating on athletes, their families, coaches, and member federations to ensure that it delivers for them in their pursuit of the Olympic dream and ideals,” it said.

Sports Ireland and Fianna Fáil have requested the money is restored to ensure athletes do not suffer.

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